Actor, Clarence Gilyard Jr., known for roles in Walker, Texas Ranger as well as Die Hard and Top Gun, died Monday at the age of 66. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ College of Fine Arts, where Gilyard was a film and theater professor, shared the news of his passing via a post on Instagram.
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“It is with profound sadness that I share this news,” Dean Nancy Uscher said in the post. “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.”
UNLV film chair Heather Addison added, “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!”
Gilyard’s extensive career in film, television and theater spanned for over 30 years. His first role was in TV show “Diff’rent Strokes” in 1981. He then made his film debut as Sundown in the original Top Gun in 1986.
Although he had an accomplished acting career, Gilyard stepped away from the art in 2006 to start teaching at UNLV. He also began directing productions at the university’s Nevada Conservatory Theatre. “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.