James Avery, the 68-year-old classically trained actor who portrayed the beloved Uncle Phil on TV’s “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," died on Dec. 31 from complications following a recent open-heart surgery in Glendale, Calif.
Avery portrayed the father figure to Will Smith’s character on “Fresh Prince” from 1990 – 1996, according to CNN.
Avery’s Uncle Phil character was ranked #34 in TV Guide’s "50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time."
“Fresh Prince” co-star Alfonso Ribeiro tweeted:
"I'm deeply saddened to say that James Avery has passed away."
"He was a second father to me. I will miss him greatly.
Avery grew up in Atlantic City, N.J., and served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam era.
After serving in the Navy, Avery moved to Calif., and began writing for PBS.
The talented Avery went on to appear in numerous TV shows and films, including: “Newhart”, “The Jeffersons”, “Simon & Simon”, “Hill Street Blues”, “Moonlighting”, “Star Trek: Enterprise”, “Grey’s Anatomy”, and “The Young and the Restless”, to mention only a few.
Avery’s first onscreen appearance was that of an uncredited dancer in the 1980 film "The Blues Brothers."
He is survived by his wife of 26 years, Barbara Avery, his mother, Florence Avery of Atlantic City, and a stepson, Kevin Waters.
Rest in Peace James Avery.