Richard Gilliland, ‘Designing Women’ Actor & Husband of Jean Smart Dies @ 71

Richard Gilliland, an actor best known for his stint as the love interest of Mary Jo Shively on Designing Women, died after "a brief illness" on March 18.

Gilliland had been married to fellow Designing Women actor Jean Smart, 69, for nearly 34 years.

Born January 23, 1950, in Fort Worth, Texas, Gilliland's first big splash was on Broadway in Godspell (1972-1973), a momentous gig commemorated in a tweet by his co-star and longtime friend Joseph Mantegna:

Gilliland broke into TV in 1974 in the telemovie Unwed Father, and made his film debut in the horror cult classic Bug (1975).

Along with numerous guest appearances, he made six appearances on McMillan & Wife (1976-1977) and starred as a series regular on Operation Petticoat (1977-1978), Just Our Luck (1983) and Heartland (1989).

He was also remembered as Jeffrey on Thirtysomething (1989-1990), and as Pervis in the feature Airplane II: The Sequel (1982).

Gilliland joined Designing Women in 1986, and appeared on 14 episodes through 1991, dating and falling in love with Smart, even though his character — J.D. Shackelford — was romancing the character played by Annie Potts (b. 1952).

With Smart in Audrey's Rain in 2003 (Image via Hallmark)

He worked steadily after the series ended, including several times with his wife — and had been set to appear with her in a movie shooting later this year.

Gilliland is survived by his wife and their two children.

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