Clarence Gilyard, Walker, Texas Ranger and Die Hard Star, Dead at 66

Clarence Gilyard. Photo: CBS via Getty Images

Clarence Gilyard, an actor known for starring in TV shows like Walker, Texas Ranger and Matlock and the movies Top Gun and Die Hard, is dead at age 66. At the time of his death, Gilyard was working as a professor of film and theater at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “It is with profound sadness that I share this news,” Dean Nancy J. Uscher said in a statement. “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. He had a national and international following through his celebrated work in the theatre, in film, and television. 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.”

Born into an Air Force family in 1955, Gilyard began acting in theater classes at California State Long Beach, according to St. Anthony Messenger magazine. His first role in a major project was in Top Gun, in which he played LTJG Marcus “Sundown” Williams, a radar intercept officer who works with Maverick. He followed Top Gun with Die Hard, in which he played Theo, who worked as Hans Gruber’s tech guy. Throughout the ’90s, Gilyard concentrated on TV. He played Conrad McMasters in 85 episodes of Matlock from 1989 to 1993. Then he starred alongside Chuck Norris in Walker, Texas Ranger as James “Jimmy” Trivette for the entire run of the series from 1993 to 2001.

Later in life, Gilyard became a professor of theater and film at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “Some may find it surprising to know that Clarence valued his appointment as a university professor as highly, maybe higher, then his illustrious career as a TV star,” his UNLV colleague Nate Bynum said in a statement. “It was a major goal for him. He loved his UNLV family and, in particular, the students he instructed in his classroom. Gone too soon.”

Clarence Gilyard, Walker, Texas Ranger Star, Dead at 66