Clarence Gilyard Jr., an actor known for roles in such TV shows such as Walker, Texas Ranger and Matlock has passed away, reports Deadline. He was 66,

His passing was confirmed by Dean Nancy J. Uscher of the University of Las Vegas, where he served as a professor of film and theater.

“His students were deeply inspired by him, as were all who knew him,” she said in a statement. “He had many extraordinary talents and was extremely well-known in the university through his dedication to teaching and his professional accomplishments.”

“His generosity of spirit was boundless—he was always ready to contribute to projects and performances however possible,” she continued. ‘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.”

No cause of death was given.

Born to a military family in Moses Lake, WA, he grew up in California and later graduated with a BA in Theatre Arts from California State University. He eventually moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career in the late ’70s. 

In 1986, Gilyard made his film debut in Top Gun playing Sundown, one of the elite fighter pilots. He was cast as Theo, the computer expert who helps Hans Gruber’s terrorist group in Die Hard in 1988.

His breakout role came in 1989, when he starred as Conrad McMasters on the iconic NBC legal drama Matlock, opposite Andy Griffith. He then portrayed Jimmy Trivette alongside Chuck Norris in Walker, Texas Ranger.

After taking a sabbatical from acting, he earned an MFA in Theatre Performance at Southern Methodist University, later joining the faculty of the College of Fine Arts at UNLV and directing productions at the university’s Nevada Conservatory Theatre.

UNLV film chair Heather Addison also paid tribute to Gilyard for his impact as a beloved professor.

 “Professor Gilyard was a beacon of light and strength for everyone around him at UNLV,” she said. “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!”

Although he loved acting, Gilyard considered teaching as his life’s calling.

“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,” he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2017.

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

In 2021, he briefly returned to the screen, reuniting with Bruce Willis and De’voreaux White for a “Die Hard” battery commercial.

We at Ebony extend our prayers and deepest condolences to the family and friends of Clarence Gilyard Jr.