Clarence Gilyard Jr. started his life in Washington state, but he went on to have a very successful film and television career and an equally successful career as a college professor.

You may remember Gilyard from his role as Theo the movie “Die Hard“, or perhaps you remember him as Sundown from the movie “Top Gun.” On the small screen, Gilyard stared opposite Andy Griffith in “Matlock” as Conrad McMasters, and he also played James Trivette in “Walker: Texas Ranger.” In addition, he was in the “Left Behind” movies and had smaller roles in multiple other TV series and films.

More recently, Gilyard was a professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) where he taught in the College of Fine Arts. It was UNLV that broke the news of Gilyard’s death yesterday. He was only 66 years old.

UNLV Dean Nancy J. Uscher said in a statement on Instagram, “It is with profound sadness that I share this news. 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 also added a statement on Instagram saying, “

Professor Gilyard was a beacon of light and strength for everyone around him at UNLV.”

In addition, Nate Bynum, a professor in the theater program at UNLV, explained just how much Gilyard loved teaching at UNLV. He said, “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. It was a major goal for him. He loved his UNLV family and, in particular, the students he instructed in his classroom. Gone too soon.”

UNLV did not reveal a cause of death. According to IMDB, he was previously married to Catherine Dutko. They had two children together before divorcing. He later married Elena Castillo and had three more children.

[Image credit: YouTube]