Clarence Gilyard Jr., known for roles in ‘Walker, Texas Ranger’ and ‘Die Hard,’ dies at 66

Clarence Gilyard Jr., the actor best known for playing computer hacker Theo on Die Hard and naval aviation officer Marcus “Sundown” Williams on Top Gun, has died at the age of 66.

His death was announced Monday in a statement from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), where he had served as an adjunct professor at the College of Fine Arts.

“It is with deep sadness that I share this news,” Dean Nancy Uscher said in the statement shared on Instagram. “His students, like everyone who knew him, were deeply inspired by him. He had many exceptional talents and was well known in the university for his dedication to teaching and professional achievements.”

UNLV Film Chair Heather Addison remembered Gilyard as “a beacon and strength to everyone around him at UNLV.”

She added, “Whenever we asked him how he was, he cheerfully declared that he was ‘blessed!’ But we are truly the ones who have been blessed to be his colleagues and students for so many years. We love you and will miss you dearly, Professor G!”

Further details about his death were not released.

According to UNLV, Gilyard ventured into acting after earning a degree in theater arts from California State University. He got his first role in 1981 in the TV show “Diff’rent Strokes”.

In 1986, Gilyard made his film debut in Top Gun, playing Sundown, one of the elite fighter pilots.

Two years later, he was cast in the thriller Die Hard as Theo, the computer expert who helps Hans Gruber’s terrorist group.

His big break from primetime television came in 1989 when he landed the role of Conrad McMasters on the NBC legal drama Matlock, starring Andy Griffith. He then portrayed Chuck Norris’ crime-fighting partner Jimmy Trivette in Walker, Texas Ranger.

Gilyard’s acting credits also include The Karate Kid Part II, CHiPS, and the Left Behind films.

Despite his successful acting career, Gilyard retired from acting in 2006 to teach at UNLV and direct productions at the university’s Nevada Conservatory Theatre.

“I am destined to teach. And I’m a professional, but the profession needs to enrich the classroom. It stimulates my characters because I’m in touch with people’s lives in the 21st century,” he told Las Vegas Review magazine in 2017.

“I work best as an artist when I’m in a fertile field. That means being creative and imaginative. Being with all these millennials — I don’t understand what they’re saying, but I’m siphoning off their energy.”

However, he returned to the big screen briefly in 2021 when he reunited with Bruce Willis and De’voreaux White for a Die Hard battery commercial.

The CNN Wire
& 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery company. All rights reserved. Clarence Gilyard Jr., known for roles in ‘Walker, Texas Ranger’ and ‘Die Hard,’ dies at 66

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