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.
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.