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Clarence Gilyard, ‘Die Hard’ and ‘Top Gun’ actor, dies at 66

The retired actor was working as an associate professor at University of Nevada, Las Vegas

SHARE Clarence Gilyard, ‘Die Hard’ and ‘Top Gun’ actor, dies at 66
Clarence Gilyard, Jr., associate professor of theater and film at UNLV in Las Vegas on April 28, 2008.

This image released by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas shows Clarence Gilyard, Jr., associate professor of theater and film at UNLV in Las Vegas on April 28, 2008. Gilyard Jr., a popular supporting actor whose credits include the blockbuster films “Die Hard” and “Top Gun” and the hit television series “Matlock” and “Walker, Texas Ranger,” has died at age 66

Aaron Mayes, UNLV via Associated Press

Clarence Gilyard, the actor best known for his performances in “Die Hard,” “Walker, Texas Ranger,” and “Top Gun,” has died at 66.

His death was confirmed in a statement from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas on Instagram. Gilyard had been working as a professor at UNLV College of Fine Arts teaching theatre and film. Details about his death have not been released.

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

The UNLV film chair, Heather Addison, remembered Gilyard as, “a beacon of light and strength for everyone around him,” the Instagram statement read. “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!”

Gilyard had a 30-year career in film. He played Sundown in the original “Top Gun” and also starred as Theo, the computer hacker in “Die Hard.” He played the private investigator Conrad McMasters for 85 episodes in “Matlock” and starred with Chuck Norris in “Walker, Texas Ranger,” from 1993-2001, reports Deadline.

According to Variety, Gilyard was born Dec. 24, 1955, in Moses Lake, Washington. He attended the Air Force Academy as a cadet for a year before transferring to California State University, Long Beach and California State University, Dominguez Hills, to earn a degree in acting.

In 2006, Gilyard stepped away from acting and joined the UNLV theater department to work as an associate professor.

“I’m wired to teach. And I’m a professional, but the profession has to feed the classroom. It’s what stimulates my characters because I’m in touch with people’s lives in the 21st century,” Gilyard told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2017.