R.I.P. James Avery

In Memoriam

James Avery, who played unforgettable Uncle Phil Banks in the popular 1990s sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air," died at 68.

Jan 2, 2014 | 01:05 PM

James Avery, the actor who played strict but loving 'Uncle Phil' in the wildly popular 1990s sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air," died on Tuesday evening in Glendale, California. He was 68 years old. 

"The cause of death was complications from open-heart surgery," said Avery's manager Toni Benson. Avery had surgery on November 11.

"He was such a good friend of mine... larger than life. An avid reader, avid questioner, avid thinker, he was just a brilliant man," said actress Daphne Reid who played Vivian Banks Avery's wife on the sitcom.

"He was a marvelous man and a truly wonderful actor. He strove to present an Uncle Phil that everybody wishes was their uncle," said actor Joseph Marcell who played Geoffrey the Banks' family butler.

"I'm deeply saddened (...) He was a second father to me. I'll miss him greatly," tweeted Alfonso Ribeiro who played Avery's son Carlton on the show. 

Meanwhile, Jada Pinkett Smith, wife of the show's star Will Smith, posted the couple's condolences Wednesday on her Facebook page: "Our condolences to aunt Florence (his mother), Miss Barbara (his wife) and all those who loved him," Pinkett Smith wrote.

Avery was a classically trained actor and poet who grew up in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He was raised by a single mother, served in the Navy during the Vietnam War and first appeared onscreen as an uncredited dancer in the 1980 film "The Blues Brothers."

R.I.P. James Avery. Uncle Phil will live forever.

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