With the arrival of the new year also came the loss of a beloved actor. James Avery, who played Uncle Phil on the hit sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," died Wednesday, Jan 1 at age 68. The actor had surgery on November 11 and died at a hospital in Glendale, California, according to his publicist, Toni Benson.
Avery grew up in Atlantic City, New Jersey and served in the Navy during the Vietnam War. Avery appeared in multiple TV shows and movies, including "CSI," "That '70s Show," "The Closer" and made several appearances as a judge on "L.A. Law.
On "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," Will Smith played a teen from Philadelphia who gets sent to live with his wealthy Los Angeles relatives. Avery's Uncle Phil was a Harvard Law-trained attorney who tried to yield a steady hand in giving guidance to Smith's character. A running joke on the show was Uncle Phil literally tossing Will's best friend, Jazz (DJ Jazzy Jeff) out the door each time he came over. "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" aired on NBC from September 10, 1990, to May 20, 1996.
He is survived by his wife of 26 years, Barbara Avery; his mother, Florence Avery of Atlantic City; and a stepson, Kevin Waters. Funeral arrangements are pending.