Ron Glass, best known for his roles as the literary Det. Ron Harris in the television sitcom Barney Miller (1975–1982), and as the spiritual Shepherd Derrial Book in the 2002 science fiction series Firefly and its sequel film Serenity, has died at age 71.
Glass died Friday of respiratory failure, his agent, Jeffrey Leavett, told The Associated Press on Saturday.
“Ron was a private, gentle and caring man,” said Leavett, a longtime friend of the actor. “He was an absolute delight to watch on screen. Words cannot adequately express my sorrow. ”
Glass was born in Evansville, Indiana, the son of the former Lethia Mae Gibson and Crump Allen Glass. Graduating from Saint Francis Seminary in 1964, Glass attended the University of Evansville, where he received a Bachelor of Arts double majoring in Drama and Literature. Years later, the university honored his work in television and film with their highest commendation, the Medal of Honor. Glass stated in an interview that he knew he wanted to act while he was in college. A teacher liked his voice and encouraged him to try out for a play. He went on to act in that play (and many others) during his time there.
Glass made his stage debut at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis before moving to Hollywood. His earliest TV appearances include episodes of Sanford and Son in 1972, an episode of Hawaii Five-O in 1973, an episode of All in the Family in 1973, an episode of The Bob Newhart Show, and episodes of Good Times in 1974.
In 1975, he landed the role of Det. Ron Harris in Barney Miller which ran until 1982. The following season, Glass also co-starred with Demond Wilson on television in the short-lived remake of The Odd Couple, called The New Odd Couple. On December 13, 1985, he played a soul-collecting devil opposite Sherman Hemsley’s mathematics professor in an episode of the revived Twilight Zone series.
In 1992, he co-starred in the short-lived sitcom Rhythm and Blues, a kind of “black WKRP“, playing “the fifth Top” opposite Roger Kabler.
In 1996, Glass was cast as uptight history teacher Roland Felcher in the NBC sitcom Mr. Rhodes opposite comedian Tom Rhodes. In 1999, he appeared in an episode of the NBC sitcom Friends as Ross Geller’s divorce lawyer, Russell.
After that, Glass appeared in dozens of television series, including sitcoms such as Family Matters and the series Teen Angel where he played God’s cousin Rod. He had a guest appearance in the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Nightingale”. He was a series regular in the science fiction series Firefly (2002) and the sequel film Serenity (2005), in which he played Derrial Book, a pseudo-Christian “Shepherd” with a mysterious past. Glass provided the voice of Randy Carmichael for the Nickelodeon series All Grown Up! and Rugrats, and the character Garth in the video game Fable II. In 2008 he appeared in the film Lakeview Terrace alongside Samuel L. Jackson, and starred in the 2010 version of Death at a Funeral as Duncan.