Clarence Gilyard Jr. Dies: ‘Walker, Texas Ranger’ and ‘Top Gun’ Actor Was 66

Clarence Gilyard Jr. in Walker, Texas Ranger. (IMDb)

Clarence Gilyard Jr., a veteran actor best known for his roles in Walker, Texas Ranger; Die Hard; and Top Gun has died. He was 66.

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) College of Fine Arts, where Gilyard was a professor of acting and film, confirmed his death Monday in a press release.

“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.”

The university did not disclose his cause of death, but according to published reports he had been ill for some time.

Said 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!”

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Gilyard was born in 1955 in Moses Lake, Washington.

During his decades-long acting career, he had roles on the hit television shows Matlock; Walker, Texas Ranger; Diff’rent Strokes; and CHiPs.

Among his other notable TV credits were The Facts of Life, 227, Simon & Simon and the TV movie L.A. Takedown.

His film roles included Top Gun (1986) and Die Hard (1988).

In 2006, he joined UNLV as a professor. His bio page on the university’s website said he earned a BA in theater arts from California State University, Dominguez Hills and an MFA from Southern Methodist University.

Gilyard told the Las Vegas-Review Journal he loved teaching, even though it took him away from acting.

“My manager-agent is not happy that I’m not working, but the university is just too much fun. And once you start a semester and meet those students, it’s like doing a TV series,” he told the paper in 2010. “You’re plugged into them. How can you leave them once you see in their eyes that they’re depending on you? They have aspirations for their own growth for those 15 weeks.”