Longtime actor and academic Clarence Gilyard Jr., best known for his roles in television shows Walker Texas Rangerand Matlock and films Top Gun and Die Hard, passed away on Monday at age 66.
According to CBN News, for several decades, Gilyard starred in numerous TV shows and films. He later pursued a career as a theatre professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas College of Fine Arts.
"It is with profound sadness that I share this news," Nancy J. Uscher, a dean at the school, said in a statement.
"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," she continued. "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," Uscher said.
The cause of death has not been publicly released.
Gilyard's popularity grew in the 1990s when he starred alongside renowned actor Chuck Norris in the television crime series Walker Texas Ranger, where he played a deputy named James Trivette.
"It's with great sadness to hear of the passing of a dear friend and co-star, Clarence Gilyard. For nearly a decade, we had many great times working together, and we both loved bringing the bad guys to justice," Norris wrote on Facebook on Tuesday. "My thoughts and prayers go out to his wife and children. You will be deeply missed by all who knew you. May you Rest In Peace, my friend. Until we meet again."
While Gilyard was raised Lutheran, he later converted to Catholicism after a years-long battle with drug and sex addictions.
"I hit bottom, I hit bottom … I was pretty much sex, drugs, and rock and roll, ya know what I mean?" he told the Catholic News Agency in a 2016 interview.
The actor shared that a friend had invited him to Mass while he was in a recovery program.
"Man, it rocked my world, it rocked me. So, I went to the priest on the way out, and I said hey, can I come see you this week? And the rest is history," he said.
In 2018, Gilyard told CMGlobal.org that it had become his daily quest to make everything he does for God a prayer.
"I have come to realize that my approach to this life is necessarily evolving: evolving and maturing into a critical daily request to our good God to help me make mine, my life and my labors, my work, a prayer," he said.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Michael Ochs Archives/Stringer
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.