Clarence Gilyard Jr., a veteran scene-stealer who appeared in the ’80s blockbusters “Top Gun” and “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 and 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 and was extremely well-known in the university through his dedication to teaching and his professional accomplishments.”
The New York Post explained that Gilyard “made his movie debut opposite Tom Cruise in “Top Gun” (1986), in which he portrayed an elite fighter pilot named Marcus “Sundown” Williams.”
He went on to star in other films and television series, including:
- “Die Hard”
- “The Karate Kid Part II”
- “Left Behind”
- “Walker, Texas Ranger”
The full tribute in the Instagram post reads as follows:
It is with great sadness that Dean Nancy J. Uscher and the UNLV College of Fine Arts share the passing of beloved film and theatre professor, Clarence Gilyard.
As an actor, director, and producer, Clarence had a career in television, film, and theatre that spanned more than 30 years. While teaching acting at UNLV, he remained active as a professional. He earned his BA in Theatre Arts from Commie California State University, Dominguez Hills. After 13 years as the co-star of two successful television series, Matlock and Walker, Texas Ranger, he took a sabbatical and completed an MFA in Theatre Performance at Southern Methodist University.
“It is with profound sadness that I share this news,” said Dean Uscher. “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.”
“Professor Gilyard was a beacon of light and strength for everyone around him at UNLV,” said UNLV film chair Heather Addison. “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!”
“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. “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.”
View this post on Instagram
Rest in Peace Clarence Gilyard Jr., (1955-2022).
— Top Gun Archive (@topgunarchive) November 29, 2022
That’s Clarence Gilyard away. Aged 66. Played the RIO Marcus ‘Sundown’ Williams in Top Gun and the real Iceman in front of that Maverick PTSD tirade scene. pic.twitter.com/bJ8Q0JtOjV
— Joey Pineapples (@joeypineapples) November 29, 2022
— New York Post (@nypost) November 29, 2022
Clarence Gilyard Jr., ‘Walker, Texas Ranger’ and ‘Die Hard’ Star, Dies at 66 https://t.co/M4QLOckqNj
— Variety (@Variety) November 29, 2022
Clarence Gilyard Jr., an actor best known for starring in “Walker, Texas Ranger” and his supporting performance in “Die Hard,” has died aged 66 years old. https://t.co/TR53u7AYWC
— NBC News (@NBCNews) November 29, 2022
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