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Richard Gilliland dead – Designing Women actor and husband to Jean Smart dies at 71 after ‘brief illness’

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The US Sun
The US Sun
 2021-03-26

"DESIGNING Women" star Richard Gilliland died last week, his wife and fellow sitcom co-star Jean Smart confirmed on Thursday.

The 71-year-old actor, whose numerous acting credits include the CBS show where he met Smart, his wife of 34 years, died on March 18 following a brief illness.

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Richard Gilliland died at the age of 71 following a brief illness Credit: Getty
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He met his wife of 34 years, Jean Smart, when they starred together on "Designing Women" Credit: Getty Images

Gilliland first appeared on the hit sitcom "Designing Women" in 1986, when he landed a recurring role as baseball talent scout J.D. Shackelford.

On the show is when he met and eventually married Smart, who played Charlene Frazier-Stillfield on the series.

"I met him when he was kissing someone else," Smart told Northwest Prime Time in 2017.

Smart admitted to asking fellow cast member Delta Burke to find out if Gilliland was single.

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Gilliland and Smart would work together on a number of productions and television series after the sitcom Credit: Getty
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The two had two children together Credit: Getty

"Naturally, Delta walked up to him and blurted, 'Jean wants to know if you’re married.'"

Smart's representative Ame Vanlden confirmed Gilliland's death in a statement sent to USA Today.

The actress said the two quickly hit it off after she "lured" Gilliland to her dressing room for help with a crossword puzzle.

They got married in June 1987, in fellow cast member Dixie Carter's rose garden that she shared with Hal Holbrook.

The couple have two children: Connor, 31, and Bonnie, 11.

The actors also took their off-screen romance to the public, starring opposite each other in the stage productions of "It Had to Be You" and "Love Letters," and in the telefilms "Just My Imagination" and "Audrey’s Rain."

Their most recently famed roles came at "24," where Gilliland played Captain Stan Cotter and Smart played first lady Martha Logan.

Smart and Gilliland were also set to work together again in a Tate Taylor film before Gilliland died.

A number of stars have reached out and shared their memories of the veteran actor.

Annie Potts - who played Mary Jo Shively on "Designing Women" and whose character's boyfriend was the scout played by Gilliland - gave an outpouring of support to Smart and shared a photo of her with Gilliland on Instagram.

"Sweet Richard. You are missed already. Please say hello to Dixie and Hal, Meschach and Alice. Table read Monday. Love, Annie," Potts wrote, in reference to co-stars Dixie Carter, who died in 2010, and Meshach Taylor, who died in 2014.

"GODSPELL 1972. He was Jesus and I was Judas," wrote Joe Mantegna who costarred with Gilliland on a 1972 production of Godspell. "Beginning a friendship of 50 yrs."

"In June of ‘87 within 78 hours I was best man at his wedding and he became a godfather of my 1st child. I, my wife and children mourn the passing of a great a friend. R. I. P. Richard Gilliland."

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