Clarence Gilyard Jr., who had memorable role in ‘Die Hard,’ dies at 66


Clarence Gilyard Jr., a popular supporting actor whose credits include the blockbuster films “Die Hard” and “Top Gun” and the hit television series “Matlock” and “Walker, Texas Ranger,” has died at 66.

His death was announced this week by the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, where he taught stage and screen acting. Additional details were not immediately available.

Mr. Gilyard had a prolific career as an actor, starting in the 1980s with appearances in “Diff’rent Strokes,” “The Facts of Life” and other TV sitcoms.

He also appeared in two of the biggest action films of the decade: “Top Gun” (1986), in which he played Sundown, a radar intercept officer, and “Die Hard” (1988), when he was featured as a villainous computer maven whose one liners included “You didn’t bring me along for my charming personality.”

Starting in the late 1980s, he had featured roles in the TV legal drama “Matlock,” playing a private investigator working for Andy Griffith’s canny defense lawyer, and “Walker, Texas Ranger,” as a young ranger working with veteran lawman Chuck Norris. His other credits include “The Karate Kid: Part II,” a stage production of “Driving Miss Daisy” and an appearance alongside “Die Hard” star Bruce Willis in a commercial for DieHard batteries.

In an interview with the Dallas Morning News in 2001, he described himself as a conservative Republican, a Catholic and an antiabortion advocate driven to find roles that aligned with his faith and other convictions. In his later film career, he had roles in religiously themed dramas including the “Left Behind” movie series.

Clarence Alfred Gilyard Jr. was born in Moses Lake, Wash., on Dec. 24, 1955, and grew up on military bases for his father’s Air Force career. He graduated from high school in Rialto, Calif., and attended the Air Force Academy before transferring to Sterling College, an evangelical Christian college in Kansas, where he played wide receiver for the football team.

He said he was forced to leave school after money ran out, and it was another decade before he graduated from what is now California State University at Long Beach with a drama degree. In the interim, he held what he described as dead-end jobs before he gradually won minor sitcom parts. Almost constant rejection, he told the Morning News, “fed my energy level. It made me determined to work at it, to prove everybody wrong.”

His marriage to Catherine Dutko, with whom he had two children, ended in divorce. In 2001, he married Elena Castillo, with whom he had three children. A complete list of survivors was not immediately available.

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