Actor and academic Clarence Gilyard Jr, known for roles in such TV series as Walker, Texas Ranger and Matlock, as well as films including Die Hard and Top Gun, has died. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ College of Fine Arts, where Gilyard was a film and theater professor, shared the news of his passing. No cause of death was given. He was 66.
Gilyard’s career spanned more than 30 years in film, television and theater. His first movie role was as Sundown in the original Top Gun (1986), and he later made a lasting impression in 1989’s Die Hard as wise-cracking computer whiz baddie Theo.
On television, Gilyard co-starred opposite Andy Griffith in legal drama Matlock from 1989-1993, appearing in 85 episodes as private investigator Conrad McMasters. Then, from 1993-2001, he starred with Chuck Norris as Jimmy Trevette in CBS’ Walker, Texas Ranger.
Gilyard was born in 1955 in Moses Lake, Washington and later attended high school in California. He earned a BA in Theatre Arts from California State University, moving to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career in the late 70s.
After Walker, Texas Ranger, Gilyard took a sabbatical from acting and completed an MFA in Theatre Performance at Southern Methodist University, later joining the UNLV College of Fine Arts.
In 2020, Gilyard reprised the role of Die Hard’s Theo in a super-sized commercial for Advanced Auto Parts celebrating its acquisition of the DieHard battery brand. The advert featured Bruce Willis’ legendary hero John McClane as well as cameos by De’voreaux White, who played limo driver Argyle, and Gilyard. At the time, Gilyard told Nevada Public Radio the experience had been “surreal.”
Said UNLV Dean Nancy J. Uscher of Gilyard, “His students were deeply inspired by him, as were all who knew him. He had many extraordinary talents and was extremely well-known in the university through his dedication to teaching and his professional accomplishments.
“His generosity of spirit was boundless – he was always ready to contribute to projects and performances however possible. We remember Clarence with joy and gratitude for all he contributed to the College of Fine Arts, the UNLV community, and, through his impressive personal achievements, to the world.”
Added, UNLV film chair Heather Addison, “Professor Gilyard was a beacon of light and strength for everyone around him at UNLV. Whenever we asked him how he was, he would cheerfully declare that he was ‘Blessed!’ But we are truly the ones who were blessed to be his colleagues and students for so many years. We love you and will miss you dearly, Professor G!”