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

Clarence Gilyard
Clarence Alfred Gilyard Jr.

(1955-12-24) December 24, 1955 (age 63)
Other namesClarence A. Gilyard
OccupationCollege professor, actor, author
Years active1981–2005
Spouse(s)Catherine (divorced)
Elena (2001–present)

Gilyard is 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 Left Behind movie trilogy; 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) Marcus "Sundown" Williams in Top Gun.



In 1979, Gilyard moved to Los Angeles to become an actor. He became the first black 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.[citation needed]

Gilyard's movie debut in 1986 was as an F-14 Tomcat Radar Intercept Officer (RIO), LTJG 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 computer expert and thief. He also appeared as Reverend Bruce Barnes Left Behind: The Movie and its sequel, Left Behind II: Tribulation Force.

He 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 during his first three seasons on the show. When the show moved from NBC to ABC for the series' seventh season, production moved from Los Angeles, California 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. 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, esp. Sheree J. Wilson.

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, 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.

On August 17, 2005, he gave his last interview,[citation needed] 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.

In 2016, Gilyard began performing in the role of Hoak Colburn in The Neil Simon Film Festival's Driving Miss Daisy opposite his former Walker, Texas Ranger co-star Sheree J. Wilson.[3] In the Madden 2018 game he plays the High School coach of the "Longshot" Devin Wade in the "Longshot" section of the game.

Personal lifeEdit

Gilyard was born into a military family in Moses Lake, Washington, on Christmas Eve, in 1955, the son of Clarence Gilyard Sr., a U.S. Air Force officer.[4] 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][5][6]

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.[7] 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.[8]

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 of Fine Arts in theatre performance 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.[8]

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]


Books by GilyardEdit

  • 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 - Biography, Photos, Movies, TV, Credits - Hollywood…". 25 January 2013. Archived from the original on 25 January 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Feister, John. "The Eucharistic Faith of Actor Clarence Gilyard" Archived 2012-07-21 at, St. Anthony Messenger, April 2009.
  3. ^ "The Neil Simon Festival's Driving Miss Daisy". Popejoy Presents.
  4. ^ "Clarence Gilyard, Jr. Biography (1955-)".
  5. ^ Profile Archived 2008-06-04 at the Wayback Machine at
  6. ^ Pattison, Mark (2005-06-10). "Actor Gilyard finds Catholicism is role for a lifetime". The Tidings. Archived from the original on 2011-04-10. Retrieved 2010-10-07.
  7. ^ "Clarence Gilyard Biography – Yahoo! Movies".
  8. ^ a b Missing or empty |title= (help)

External linksEdit