R.I.P. Richard Gilliland, actor on 'Designing Women' and 'The Waltons'

He played Mary Ellen Walton's second husband and married his 'Designing Women' costar in real life.

The Everett Collection

Richard Gilliland was born January 23, 1950, in Fort Worth, Texas. After growing up in the Lone Star State, he studied at Chicago's Goodman School of Drama then eventually moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film and television.

Early on, he played bit parts in Seventies shows like The Streets of San Francisco and Marcus Welby, M.D. He played Hal in the Jeff Bridges / Sally Field film Stay Hungry, which also featured one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's earliest screen roles. Gilliland's first true starring role came in the cult-favorite 1975 film Bug, about mutant, fire-starting cockroaches.

It wasn't long before Gilliland won bigger roles on television, recurring as Sgt. Steve DiMaggio on Rock Hudson's Seventies detective series McMillan & Wife and starring in the short-lived submarine comedy Operation Petticoat alongside John Astin and Jamie Lee Curtis.

Gilliland played love interest Theodore "Laurie" Laurence in the 1978 mini-series adaptation of Little Women. The series featured William Shatner, Susan Dey, Eve Plumb and many other TV stars from the time.

Just a few years later Gilliland joined The Waltons in a similar role, Arlington Wescott "Jonesy" Jones. He was only in two episodes of the ninth season but he made a big impact. Appearing first in the appropriately titled episode "The Whirlwind," Jonesy strikes up a passionate romance with Mary Ellen.

Things don't work out on the show but thanks to the sequel TV movies, that wasn't the last time audiences saw Jonesy. He and Mary Ellen marry in Mother's Day on Walton's Mountain.

Through the Eighties, Gilliland appeared in everything from The Love Boat and Night Court to St. Elsewhere and Hunter. He also won a recurring role on Designing Women as J.D. Shackleford, boyfriend of Mary Jo Shively played by Annie Potts. Though his character was coupled with someone else, Gilliland caught the eye of another Designing Women star Jean Smart. It was only fitting that they get married in the garden of fellow married cast members Dixie Carter and Hal Holbrook.

Gilliland continued to appear all over TV in shows like Murder, She Wrote, Matlock and Party of Five. He appeared in one episode of 24 as Captain Stan Cotter alongside his wife, who starred on the show as first lady Martha Logan.

Gilliland’s most recent credits included Dexter, Criminal Minds and Scandal. He was 71.

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PINKYLEE 34 months ago
Imagine that. An obituary with no mention of the date or cause of death.
Aimielynn PINKYLEE 13 months ago
Because I'm sure it was the Covid shot
jacko3 36 months ago
GOD Bless the Soul & legacy of Richard Gilliland - Amen - Alleluia!
kimmer 39 months ago
Such a shame....condolences to family and friends.
billmilesjr 39 months ago
A “Reloading” problem occurred and I just lost 2or3 paragraphs.. SHIT!!! So I’ll just leave it at this, Thank You 😉 it’s good to be here...
cperrynaples billmilesjr 39 months ago
Surprised you got that word on this page...LOL! But yes, a lot of times I get a reload when writing a long post! Anyone else have this problem?
stevecs 39 months ago
Trying to recollect my high school years he was actually Jean Smart’s husband in real life when he played Annie Potts’ husband on television...how topsy turvy
RobertM 39 months ago
Two things about Richard Gilliland: First, on "McMillan and Wife", people would always ask his character if he was related to Joe DiMaggio; also, he was in a short-lived show in the early 1980's called "Just Our Luck", about a man who finds a genie.
BobbiGChandler 39 months ago
RIP Yaphet Kotto 😥 He was so memorable in everything he played in
Texasrocks7 39 months ago
Also had a role in ThirtySomething Ellyn’s married boyfriend
cperrynaples 39 months ago
One role they didn't mention: He was Shatner's subordinate in Airplane 2:The Sequel! Remember that "Kirk" had to make the door noises himself...LOL!
PlowmanBetty 39 months ago
He died on March 18. I pulled up his name. Condolences to Jean Smart, family and friends. He was a fine actor that will be missed.
JustGeri 39 months ago
All these losses from my growing up and into my 30s, 40s, now 50s...so very sad. His passing may not even be noted save for sites like this. Another actor who always made shows better.
LadyAgnes 39 months ago
Very sorry at his passing. Condolences to his family & friends.
I found him to be wonderful in everything I saw him in.

As a Waltons fan, I particularly loved him as Jonsey.
Mike 39 months ago
Richard Gilliland was what we call an Everyman Actor.
Whatever the role called for, he filled it, and quite well.
Unspectacular, maybe, but the Everymen (and Everywomen too) keep our kind of TV alive - and always will.
Don't let them be forgot ...
Jan 39 months ago
My Deepest Condolences to Jean Smart and their Family. “Charlene”, you had a wonderfully delightful husband as “ J. D.” You we’re always so beautiful and thoughtful on the show, I could not imagine you being any other way in life. May your heart be surrounded by those whom love you ever so much. I heard this saying, I hope it helps “. Lost and possession, death and life are one.. There falls no shadow...where there shines no sun “ Hilaire Belloc. We are so very sorry for the loss of your Beloved Husband, Friend, Confidant, and most of all your Partner, for the rest of your lives. 🖤❤️💝💖 🦋🌸
Michael 39 months ago
Let's not forget that Mary Ellen was all set to marry another doctor, when Curt Willard appeared as the new town doctor. "The Wedfing" comes up in a week or so.

It never quite made sense that the show killed off the husband, then brought him back. He shows up in an episode or two (played by a different actor), really want only to be a barrier for Mary Ellen to marry "Joensy" .

And how many times did Mary Ellen think she'd found the man of her dreams, before the Wedding? In at least one case, Erin pursued the same guy.
BobbiGChandler Michael 39 months ago
I wish they would play the entire series of The Waltons again. I love that show 💗
Wiseguy BobbiGChandler 39 months ago
Aren't they doing that now? They already went through the whole series (except for the reunion movies) and are now in the second run.
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