Clarence Gilyard Jr., the actor who starred in popular movies and TV shows such as Die Hard, Top Gun, and Walker, Texas Ranger, passed away on November 28, 2022, at the age of 66. His death was announced by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), where he worked as an associate professor at the College of Fine Arts. Many fans and colleagues have expressed their condolences and paid tribute to his legacy, but some have also wondered what was the cause of his death. Was it cancer or something else? Here is what we know so far.
A Long Illness
According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Gilyard had been battling a “long illness” before his death. However, no specific details about his condition or diagnosis have been made public. A representative for Gilyard confirmed his death to Fox News Digital, but did not reveal the cause of death either. The UNLV statement also did not mention the cause of death, but praised Gilyard for his talents, dedication, and generosity.
Some media outlets have speculated that Gilyard may have had cancer, based on his appearance in recent years. For example, Distractify noted that Gilyard looked “frail” and “thin” in some photos and videos posted on social media. However, there is no official confirmation or evidence that Gilyard had cancer or that it was related to his death.
A Remarkable Career
Gilyard was born on December 24, 1955, in Moses Lake, Washington. He served in the US Air Force for four years before pursuing a career in acting. He studied Theatre Arts at California State University and made his TV debut on Diff’rent Strokes in 1981. He then appeared in several movies and TV shows throughout the 1980s and 1990s, such as The Karate Kid Part II, CHiPS, Top Gun, Die Hard, Matlock, and Walker, Texas Ranger. He played memorable characters such as Sundown, Theo, Conrad McMasters, and James Trivette.
Gilyard also starred in the Left Behind film series based on the Christian novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. He played Bruce Barnes, a pastor who helps the survivors of the rapture. Gilyard was a devout Catholic who converted to the faith in 1991. He also earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in Theatre Performance from Southern Methodist University in 2003.
A Passion for Teaching
In 2006, Gilyard decided to step away from acting and focus on teaching. He joined UNLV as an associate professor at the College of Fine Arts and taught courses on film and theater. He also directed productions at the university’s Nevada Conservatory Theatre. He said that he was “wired to teach” and that he enjoyed working with young people.
“I work best as an artist when I’m in a fertile arena. That means creative and imaginative. Being with all those millennials — I don’t understand what they’re saying but I’m siphoning off their energy,” he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2017.
Gilyard was loved and respected by his students and colleagues at UNLV. Heather Addison, the chair of UNLV’s film department, said that Gilyard was a “beacon of light and strength for everyone around him at UNLV.” She added: “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.”