(NBC) – Clarence Gilliard Jr., an actor best known for his role in “Walker, Texas Ranger” and a supporting role in “Die Hard,” has died. He was 66 years old.
There are no further details about his death at this time.
Gilliard’s death was confirmed by a statement from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Gilliard served as a professor of film and theater at UNLV’s College of Fine Arts.
“Professor Gilliard was a beacon of light and strength to all around him,” said Heather Addison, chair of UNLV’s film studio. “Every time we asked him how he was, he happily declared that he was ‘blessed!’ But we are really the ones who had the happiness of being his colleagues and students for so many years. We love you and will miss you very much Professor G!”
An accomplished film, television and stage actor, Gilliard made an indelible impression in the 1980s after a series of television guest stars, making his film debut as West in Top Gun and as computer terrorist mastermind Theo in Die Hard ” with a joyful threat. In 1989, he made a regular appearance on prime-time television with Matlock, playing Conrad McMasters, the private agent of top defender Andy Griffith.
Gilliard appeared in 85 episodes of “Matlock” before leaving the series in 1993 for an even bigger role: Jimmy Trivett, right-hand man to Chuck Norris’ tough-as-nails sergeant on the CBS western crime series “Walker, Texas Ranger.” He appeared in all 196 episodes of the series’ eight seasons. After the finale in 2001, Gilliard continued to appear in various films and TV series.
Born Dec. 24, 1955, in Moses Lake, Washington, Gilliard grew up a military brat, bouncing around air bases across the U.S. as a teenager before his family settled in California. After spending a year at the Air Force Academy as a cadet, Gilliard attended Sterling College and later California State University, Long Beach and California State University, Dominguez Hills, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in acting.
In 2006, Gilliard returned to academia, joining the theater faculty at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas as an assistant professor. Gilliard also produced and directed an episode of Walker, Texas Ranger.
Gilliard was previously married to Ekaterina Dutko. He married Elena Gillard in 2001.