Clarence Gilyard

Clarence Gilyard
Gilyard in 2018
Clarence Alfred Gilyard Jr.

(1955-12-24)December 24, 1955
DiedNovember 28, 2022(2022-11-28) (aged 66)
Other namesClarence Alfred Gilyard, Jr. [1]
EducationCalifornia State University, Dominguez Hills (BA)
Southern Methodist University (MFA)
OccupationUniversity professor, actor, author
Years active1980–2022
Catherine Dutko

Elena Castillo
(m. 2001)

Clarence Alfred Gilyard Jr.[2] (December 24, 1955 – November 28, 2022) was an American university professor, actor, and author. As a performer, he appeared in film, television, and stage productions; some sources give his middle name as Alfred.

Gilyard was known for his roles as second private investigator and right-hand man Conrad McMasters to Ben Matlock (played by Andy Griffith) on the legal drama series Matlock from 1989 to 1993; Pastor Bruce Barnes in the first two Left Behind movies; Cordell Walker's (played by Chuck Norris) Texas Ranger partner, James "Jimmy" Trivette, in the 1990s crime drama Walker, Texas Ranger; Theo, the terrorist computer expert in Die Hard; and Lieutenant (junior grade) Evan "Sundown" Gough in Top Gun.

Early life and education

Gilyard was born into a military family in Moses Lake, Washington, on Christmas Eve, in 1955,[2] the son of Barbara and Clarence Alfred Gilyard Sr., a U.S. Air Force officer. Gilyard was the second of six children.[2] His family was originally from New Orleans, Louisiana, but Gilyard grew up on Air Force bases in Hawaii, Texas, and Florida. Raised primarily as a Lutheran, he became Catholic in the 1990s.[2][3][4]

During his young adulthood, Gilyard lived in the San Bernardino suburb of Rialto, California, and attended Eisenhower High School. He was an excellent student, graduating in 1974, and afterward spent a year as an Air Force Academy cadet before leaving the service to attend Sterling College.[5] In college, he played football, and became a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. He also received a tennis scholarship, but dropped out of school before completing his studies.

While living with his parents in high school, Gilyard was preoccupied with women, alcohol, and occasionally, drugs.[2] His parents urged him to move out, so he relocated to Long Beach, California, with a friend. He attended California State University, Long Beach, majoring in acting, and worked as a waiter while seeking acting opportunities. He completed his bachelor's degree at California State University, Dominguez Hills.[6][7]

Gilyard worked with a housemate at a clothing store, where he was promoted to manager. He left this to work briefly selling industrial chemicals.[2] In 2003, Gilyard returned to school, receiving a master of fine arts in theatre performance at Southern Methodist University.



In 1979, Gilyard moved to Los Angeles to become an actor. Among other work, a role in the play Bleacher Bums made him what one magazine called "the first black actor to play a cheerleader",[2] before he segued into television roles. As a character actor, Gilyard made guest appearances on TV shows such as Diff'rent Strokes, The Facts of Life, 227, Simon & Simon, and Riptide. In 1982–1983, Gilyard was cast in the final season of the NBC TV series CHiPs as Officer Benjamin Webster, opposite Erik Estrada. He co-starred with Jim Carrey in the 1984 NBC sitcom The Duck Factory. He appeared in a commercial for McDonald's in 1987.[citation needed]

Gilyard's movie debut in 1986 was as an F-14 Tomcat radar intercept officer, LT.(JG) Marcus "Sundown" Williams, in Top Gun. He was also a military man in the 1986 film The Karate Kid Part II. He appeared in the 1988 action film Die Hard as Theo, a criminal computer expert. He also appeared as Reverend Bruce Barnes in Left Behind: The Movie and its sequel, Left Behind II: Tribulation Force.

Gilyard played the role of Ben Matlock's private investigator, Conrad McMasters, on Matlock opposite Andy Griffith from 1989 to 1993. He replaced Kene Holliday, who was fired for his dependency on drugs and alcohol. Gilyard appeared in almost every Matlock episode starting in season 3 of the show. When the show moved from NBC to ABC for the series' seventh season, production moved from Los Angeles to Wilmington, North Carolina. Andy Griffith suggested to Gilyard that he move there, too, which he did, before departing to work on a pilot for another series at CBS the following year.

In 1993, he began another long-time co-starring role opposite Chuck Norris on Walker, Texas Ranger. Gilyard portrayed fellow Texas Ranger and best friend of Walker, James "Jimmy" Trivette. Near the end of the series, Norris' character married his longtime girlfriend, an assistant district attorney, while Gilyard's character was given a girlfriend. Gilyard had a cameo appearance in the 2005 television movie, Walker, Texas Ranger: Trial by Fire.

In 2012, after taking time off to teach, Gilyard began appearing onscreen again, mostly in independent projects. In 2014, he appeared in the religious film A Matter of Faith.

On January 17, 2016, Gilyard performed the role of Hoak Colburn onstage at the University of New Mexico's Popejoy Hall in the Neil Simon Festival's Driving Miss Daisy, opposite his former Walker, Texas Ranger co-star, Sheree J. Wilson.[8]

In the 2018 edition of the football video game Madden NFL, Gilyard plays high school coach Devin Wade in the "Longshot" section of the game. Two years later, Gilyard reprised his role as criminal gang member Theo from Die Hard, alongside star Bruce Willis, in a commercial for Advance Auto Parts' DieHard brand of car batteries.[9]


In 2006 Gilyard took a break from acting and became an associate professor in the College of Fine Arts – Department of Theatre at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he taught stage and screen acting.[10][6] He continued to teach for many years. Following his death, the school's film chair said "Professor Gilyard was a beacon of light and strength for everyone around at UNLV".[11]

Personal life and death

Gilyard was married twice and had six children. His first marriage, to Catherine Dutko in 1989,[12] ended in divorce, and he married his second wife, Elena Castillo, in 2001.[2][13] He served as the consultant of the communications committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.[2][14]

After a long illness, Gilyard died at his home in Las Vegas, Nevada, on November 28, 2022, at the age of 66.[15][16]



Year Title Role Notes
1986 Top Gun Lieutenant Junior Grade Marcus "Sundown" Williams
The Karate Kid Part II G.I. #1
1987 Off the Mark James B. White
1988 Die Hard Theo
2000 Left Behind: The Movie Bruce Barnes
2002 Left Behind II: Tribulation Force
2012 Little Monsters Ben Foreman
2013 From Above Jeremiah Ward
2014 A Matter of Faith Professor Portland
2015 The Track Psychiatrist
2016 The Beast Auguste Porter
The Sector Reverend Raines
2019 The Perfect Race Coach Michaels
TBA The Driver Lee Staples Filming


Year Title Role Notes
1981 Diff'rent Strokes Frank Simpson / The Student 2 episodes
1982 Making the Grade Unknown Episode: Teach Me Tonight
1982–1983 CHiPs Officer Benjamin Webster 20 episodes
1983 The Kid with the 200 I.Q. Unknown TV Movie
1984 Things Are Looking Up Clement McCallister
The Duck Factory Roland Culp 13 episodes
Riptide William Collins Episode: It's a Vial Sort of Business
1985 Solomon's Universe Casey TV Movie
1986 Simon & Simon Wally Stokes Episode: A.W.O.L.
1987 227 Harold Bailey Episode: Matchmakers
The Facts of Life Matt Episode: The More the Marrier
1989 L.A. Takedown Mustafa Jackson TV Movie
1989–1993 Matlock Conrad McMasters 85 episodes
1990 The Great Los Angeles Earthquake Roy Bryant TV Movie
1993–2001 Walker, Texas Ranger Ranger James Trivette 196 episodes
1994 Walker Texas Ranger 3: Deadly Reunion TV Movie
1999 Sons of Thunder Episode: Flighting Back
2005 Walker, Texas Ranger: Trial by Fire TV Movie
2018 Christmas on the Coast Fletcher Reese TV Movie
TBA Eleanor's Bench Reginald TV Movie; Filming


  • The Dance of the Star (1990)
  • Instructors and Students (1992)
  • Eagle in a Cage (1996)
  • Perfume at Night (1997)
  • Melancholy in the Mirror (2002)
  • Past and Present: My Story (2005)
  • The Game of Venus (2006)
  • Memories of a Stranger Wanderer (2008)
  • Cry of the Cat (2010)
  • Red Lights (2011)[ISBN missing]


  1. ^ "Clarence Gilyard Jr". IMDb.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Feister, John (April 2009). "The Eucharistic Faith of Actor Clarence Gilyard". St. Anthony Messenger. Archived from the original on July 21, 2012.
  3. ^ "Clarence Gilyard Jr. (Junior)". Archived from the original on June 4, 2008.
  4. ^ Pattison, Mark (June 10, 2005). "Actor Gilyard finds Catholicism is role for a lifetime". The Tidings. Archived from the original on April 10, 2011. Retrieved October 7, 2010.
  5. ^ "Clarence Gilyard Biography – Yahoo! Movies".
  6. ^ a b "Clarence Gilyard, M.F.A." University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Archived from the original on October 19, 2020. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  7. ^ "Clarence Gilyard: Professor, Stage & Screen Acting/ Film". University of Nevada, Las Vegas. September 19, 2012. Archived from the original on October 19, 2020. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  8. ^ "The Neil Simon Festival's Driving Miss Daisy". Popejoy Hall, The University of New Mexico: Popejoy Presents. Archived from the original on March 4, 2015.
  9. ^ Ramos, Dino-Ray (October 18, 2020). "Bruce Willis Reprises His Role As John McClane In Commercial For Die Hard…Car Batteries". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  10. ^ "Clarence Gilyard, 'Die Hard' and 'Matlock' actor, dies at 66". AP NEWS. November 29, 2022. Retrieved November 30, 2022.
  11. ^ "Clarence Gilyard, 'Die Hard' and 'Matlock' actor, dies at 66". AP NEWS. November 29, 2022. Retrieved November 30, 2022.
  12. ^ "Erratum". Palm Desert, California: Palm Desert Post. March 28, 1990. p. 84. Retrieved December 1, 2022.
  13. ^ Murphy, J. Kim (November 29, 2022). "Clarence Gilyard Jr., 'Walker, Texas Ranger' and 'Die Hard' Star, Dies at 66". Variety. Retrieved November 29, 2022.
  14. ^ "Texas Marriages, 1966-2010," database, FamilySearch ( : December 6, 2014), Clarence A Gilyard and Helen Castillo, August 25, 2001; citing Dallas, Texas, United States, certificate number 135708, Vital Statistics Unit, Texas Department of State Health Services, Austin.
  15. ^ Katsilometes, John (November 28, 2022). "'Die Hard' actor, UNLV professor Clarence Gilyard dies". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved November 28, 2022.
  16. ^ "Clarence Gilyard obituary". The Times. December 2, 2022. Retrieved December 3, 2022.

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