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Clarence Gilyard

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Title: Clarence Gilyard  
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Subject: Walker, Texas Ranger, CHiPs, Left Behind: The Movie, List of Walker, Texas Ranger episodes, Left Behind II: Tribulation Force
Collection: 1955 Births, 20Th-Century American Male Actors, 21St-Century American Male Actors, African-American Catholics, African-American Male Actors, American Male Film Actors, American Male Television Actors, American Roman Catholics, California State University, Dominguez Hills Alumni, California State University, Long Beach Alumni, Living People, People from Moses Lake, Washington, People from Rialto, California, Southern Methodist University Alumni, University of Nevada, Las Vegas Faculty
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Clarence Gilyard

Clarence Gilyard
Born Clarence Alfred Gilyard, Jr.
(1955-12-24) December 24, 1955
Moses Lake, Washington, U.S.
Years active 1981 – 2005, 2012 - Present
Spouse(s) Catherine (divorced) 2 children
Elena (2001–present) 3 children

Clarence Alfred Gilyard, Jr. (born December 24, 1955) is an African American actor, college professor, and author who has been featured in movies and television since 1980; he is sometimes credited as Clarence A. Gilyard.

Gilyard is known for his roles as second private investigator and right-hand man Conrad McMasters, to Ben Matlock on the legal drama series, Matlock from 1989 to 1993; as Pastor Bruce Barnes in the Left Behind movie trilogy; as Cordell Walker's Texas Ranger partner, James "Jimmy" Trivette, on the 1990s crime drama, Walker, Texas Ranger, as Theo, the terrorist computer expert, in Die Hard and as Lieutenant (junior grade) Marcus "Sundown" Williams in Top Gun.


  • Career 1
  • Personal life 2
  • Filmography 3
  • Further reading 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


In 1979, Gilyard moved to Los Angeles to become an actor. He became the first African American actor to undertake the role of the cheerleader in the play Bleacher Bums[1][2] before he segued into television roles. As a character actor, Gilyard has 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.

Aside from acting, he appeared in a commercial for McDonald's in 1987.

Gilyard's movie debut in 1986 was as Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) Sundown 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 computer expert and thief. He also appeared as Reverend Bruce Barnes Left Behind: The Movie and its sequel, Left Behind II: Tribulation Force.

By the end of the 1980s, after years as a struggling, unfamiliar actor, he finally found the role that would make him famous as Ben Matlock's private investigator, Ron Howard of The Andy Griffith Show). On the show, Gilyard performed some of his own stunts and had a wonderful on- and off-screen chemistry with Griffith. Unlike many of his 'Matlock' co-stars, with the exception of Holliday and Daniel Roebuck (who replaced Gilyard in 1993), Gilyard appeared in almost every Matlock episode during his first three seasons on the show. After the show moved from NBC to ABC for the series' seventh season, while Matlock moved production from Los Angeles to Wilmington, which made it more difficult for him to commute, Gilyard departed to work on a pilot for another series at CBS. While working on plays at the Neil Simon festival,[4] Gilyard received word that his longtime mentor, childhood television hero and TV lawyer, Andy Griffith, died July 3, 2012. He was devastated by this loss.

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. The show proved to be a big hit. Gilyard again enjoyed the chance to perform stunts. The chemistry between Norris & Gilyard made for memorable 1990s television and included Noble Willingham, who played C.D. Parker in the show's six seasons. All three actors were good friends on and off the set.

During a 2005 interview with A&E Biography, Gilyard said that Norris's Walker character was a cult-classic Western hero. Gilyard also recalled that when he and Norris were growing up, other Westerns they watched often had characters that served as surrogate father figures. He noted that he and Norris had served in the Air Force, albeit sixteen years apart.

Near the end of the Walker series, Norris's character married his longtime girlfriend, an assistant district attorney (played by Sheree J. Wilson), while Gilyard's character was given a girlfriend. Gilyard remained in the Trivette role for the entire run of the series.

Gilyard appeared in the 2005 television movie, Walker, Texas Ranger: Trial by Fire, but only had a cameo appearance because the filming schedule conflicted with a long-planned family vacation.

August 17, 2005, he gave his last interview, saying he had retired from acting.

In 2012, Gilyard began appearing in films once again, mostly in independent projects. In 2014, Gilyard appeared in the religious film, "A Matter of Faith," which began releasing in theaters in the fall of 2014.

Personal life

Gilyard was born into a military family in Moses Lake, Washington, the son of Clarence Gilyard, Sr., a U.S. Air Force officer.[5] 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][6][7]

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.[8] In college he played football and he is a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity. He also received a tennis scholarship but dropped out of school before completing his studies.

Gilyard is the second of six children.[2] He has a younger brother who graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1985. Another brother, Milton, suffers from a moderate developmental disability and resides in an assisted-living residence.

While living with his parents in his high school years, Gilyard was preoccupied with women, alcohol and, occasionally, drugs.[2] His parents urged him to move out and he relocated to Long Beach, California with a friend. He attended California State University, Long Beach, majored in acting, and worked as a waiter while continually seeking acting opportunities. He would eventually complete his bachelor's degree at California State University, Dominguez Hills.[9]

Gilyard worked with a housemate at a clothing store, where he was soon promoted to manager but, despite this success, he quit and found another job selling industrial chemicals. He has said that he didn't do well at this second job.[2]

In 2003, Gilyard returned to school, receiving a master's degree in teaching theater at Southern Methodist University. He is currently an Associate Professor in the College of Fine Arts - Department of Theatre at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.[9]

Currently, Gilyard serves as the consultant of the Communications Committee of the U.S. Catholic Bishops.

He has been married twice and has five children. He and his second wife, Elena, have been married since 2001.[2]


Further reading

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


  1. ^ Profile at
  2. ^ a b c d e f Feister, John. "The Eucharistic Faith of Actor Clarence Gilyard", St. Anthony Messenger, April 2009.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Clarence Gilyard, Jr. Biography (1955-)
  6. ^ Profile at
  7. ^
  8. ^ Clarence Gilyard Biography - Yahoo! Movies
  9. ^ a b

External links

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