Clarence Gilyard Jr., best known for his roles in Die Hard, Top Gun, and Walker, Texas Ranger, has died at the age of 66.
News of his tragic passing was confirmed by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), where he worked as a film and theatre professor for the College of Fine Arts. A cause of death has not been revealed.
“It is with profound sadness that I share this news,” said Dean Nancy J. Uscher in a statement on Instagram. “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.”
UNLV film chair Heather Addison considered Gilyard to be a “beacon of light and strength for everyone around him.” She reflected fondly, “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!”
According to UNLV, Gilyard pursued acting after studying Theatre Arts at California State University, Dominguez Hills. He scored his first television role on Diff’rent Strokes in 1981 and made his film debut in Top Gun in 1986. Two years later, he landed Die Hard.
His overall career as an actor, director, and producer spanned 30 years. He spent over a decade starring in Matlock and Walker, Texas Ranger before taking a sabbatical and getting an MFA in Theatre Performance at Southern Methodist University.
He began teaching in 2006 and directed productions at the UNLV Conservatory Theatre. Gilyard briefly returned to the silver screen last year to appear alongside Bruce Willis and De’voreaux White in a Die Hard battery commercial.
VIBE sends our deepest condolences to the Gilyard family during this time.