Clarence Gilyard Jr., ‘Walker, Texas Ranger,’ ‘Matlock’ actor, dead at 66

Gilyard, who also appeared in "Top Gun," and "Die Hard," served as a professor at UNLV since 2006.

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Clarence Gilyard Jr., longtime film and television actor and professor, has died at age 66. Gilyard’s best-known roles were his stints on the series “Walker, Texas Ranger” and “Matlock,” as well as in the classic action movie, “Die Hard.”

Gilyard’s death was announced by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas College of Fine Arts, on Monday, according to CNN. He worked as an associate professor at the university at the time of his death.

“It is with profound sadness that I share this news,” Dean Nancy Uscher said in the 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.”

Clarence Gilyard Jr. as Conrad McMasters on an episode of “Matlock.” (Photo by Frank Carroll/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images)

The cause of death is unknown at this time.

Gilyard, born in 1955, studied at California State University. He landed roles in two of the most iconic action films of the 1980s, “Top Gun “(1986) and “Die Hard” (1988), where he played fighter pilot Sundown and computer hacker Theo, respectively.

The majority of Gilyard’s best-known work came on television. He starred as private investigator Conrad McMasters on “Matlock,” opposite Andy Griffith, from 1989 to 1993. Soon after, he landed a starring role alongside Chuck Norris in “Walker, Texas Ranger.” Portraying Jimmy Trivette, he and Norris fought crime side-by-side on the show from 1993 to 2001.

Gilyard, who continued acting throughout the past two decades, began teaching at UNLV in 2006. He also worked at the school’s Nevada Conservatory Theatre, directing productions. Heather Addison, UNLV film chair, called the actor a “beacon of light and strength for everyone around him” at the school.

“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!”

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