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‘Die Hard’ actor Chris Gilyard Jr. dead at 66

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Clarence Gilyard Jr., a veteran scene-stealer who appeared in the ’80s blockbusters “Top Gun” & “Die Hard,” has passed away following a battle with an unknown illness. He was 66 years old.

The actor’s death was confirmed by the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, where he had been working as a film & theater professor at the UNLV College of Fine Arts.

“It is with profound sadness that I share this news,” Dean Nancy Uscher wrote in a post on Instagram. “His students were deeply inspired by him, as were all who knew him. He had many extraordinary talents & was extremely well-known in the university through his dedication to teaching & his professional accomplishments.”

Gilyard reportedly died of “long illness,” however the details of his death are yet unclear.

Clarence Gilyard Jr. in "CHIPS."
Clarence Gilyard Jr. in “CHIPS.”
Courtesy Everett Collection

Born 1955 in Moses Lake, WA, Gilyard made his movie debut opposite Tom Cruise in “Top Gun” (1986), in which he portrayed an elite fighter pilot named Marcus “Sundown” Williams.

The actor would go on to star with Bruce Willis in “Die Hard (1988)” as Theo, Hans Gruber’s eccentric computer hacker who comm&eers the Nakatomi Plaza’s security codes.

His other film TV & roles include parts in “The Karate Kid Part II,” “CHiPS” & the “Left Behind” movies.

Along with his work on the Enormous screen, Gilyard had roles in hit TV shows, most notably starring in “Matlock” & CBS Western drama “Walker, Texas Ranger.” In the latter he played Jimmy Trivette, the right h& man to Chuck Norris’ no-nonsense sergeant Walker.

Promotional portrait of American actor Clarence Gilyard Jr. (as James 'Jimmy' Trivette), dressed in a pin-stripe suit, for the television series "Walker, Texas Ranger."
Promotional portrait of American actor Clarence Gilyard Jr. (as James ‘Jimmy’ Trivette), dressed in a pin-stripe suit, for the television series “Walker, Texas Ranger.”
Getty Images

In 2006, Gilyard departed Hollywood to join the department of theatre at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas as an associate professor.

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

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

Chuck Norris & Clarence Gilyard Jr. in "Walker, Texas Ranger."
Chuck Norris & Clarence Gilyard Jr. in “Walker, Texas Ranger.”
Courtesy Everett Collection

Although he had decades of professional TV & film experience to his credit, it was his work as an educator that meant the most, according to his peers.

“Some may find it surprising to know that Clarence valued his appointment as a university professor as highly, maybe higher, then his illustrious career as a TV star,” said fellow UNLV theatre professor Nate Bynum in a statement. “It was a major goal for him. He loved his UNLV family &, in particular, the students he instructed in his classroom. Gone too soon.”

The Washingtonian’s fans & admirers were crestfallen over his loss.

“Professor Gilyard was a beacon of light & strength for everyone around him,” UNLV film chair Heather Addison said. “Whenever we asked him how he was, he would cheerfully declare that he was ‘Blessed!’”

She added, “But we are truly the ones who were blessed to be his colleagues & students for so many years. We love you & will miss you dearly, Professor G!”

“Clarence Gilyard has passed away,” tweeted fellow actor Chris Reed. “RIP to a legendary screen presence.”

Film critic Christopher Lawrence also paid homage: “This is going to make my annual Christmas viewing of “Die Hard” — which is most definitely a Christmas movie — infinitely more sad.”



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