James Avery Passes Away at 68

Published 1 year ago by , Updated February 24th, 2014 at 12:14 pm,

james avery passes away1 James Avery Passes Away at 68

Actor and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star James Avery has passed away at the age of 68. Avery was still active in recent years and had just completed filming an appearance in Zach Braff’s upcoming film Wish I Was Here. Unfortunately, complications during an open-heart surgery on November 11th eventually led to the actor’s death.

Avery was most associated with his role as Uncle Phil, where he was often tasked with playing the authority figure while Will Smith and the four Banks kids repeatedly tested his patience. He added an extra dimension to what could have been a pretty stuffy sitcom dad role, playing the character as the tough but fair patriarch who always followed a stern wag of the finger with a reassuring hug.

Born in Virginia and raised in New Jersey, Avery spent four years in the Navy and did a tour of duty in Vietnam before training to be an actor at the University of California San Diego and in England.

Prior to his six seasons on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Avery worked on the stage while also establishing himself as a busy character actor with guest spots on popular 1980s television series like Hill Street Blues, Amen, and L.A. Law. Avery also worked extensively as a voice actor, playing Shredder in the long running Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series and Rhodey in the Iron Man cartoon from the mid 1990s.

james avery passes away fresh prince James Avery Passes Away at 68

Following The Fresh Prince, Avery continued to work steadily in both TV and film, co-starring in the UPN series Sparks with Terrance Howard and Robin Givens before racking up an impressive list of guest spots on shows like NYPD Blue, Grey’s Anatomy, CSI, and multiple appearances on The Division and The Closer.

Naturally, these credits recall fixed moments of James Avery’s life. Moments that mean something to us because we can remember being entertained by him hurling Jazz out of the Banks family’s mansion on The Fresh Prince or as Shredder in The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but it’s the words from those who knew the man and worked closest with him that paint a picture of who he was. Words like “teacher,” “protector,” and “second father” that were written on Twitter by Tatyana Ali and Alfonso Ribeiro, who played Avery’s children Ashley and Carlton on Fresh Prince.

As the days go by, other colleagues and friends will surely weigh in on this loss and on the impact that James Avery had. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them and to Avery’s wife, Barbara, his stepson, and his mother.

R.I.P. James Avery: November 27th, 1945 – December 31st, 2013.

Source: CNN & Twitter

Follow Jason Tabrys on Twitter @jtabrys
TAGS: Obituaries
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  1. Sad day.

  2. Uncle phil :( R.I.P i loved the fresh prince and he was the perfect straight man of the show.

  3. My favorite episode was the Pool hall hustle with the scene when the told Geoffrey to break out Lucille. That one always stayed with me. Still makes me smile and laugh when I think about it. I will miss this man. RIP Uncle Phill

  4. that was a beautifully written obit…eloquent. RIP James

  5. Remember him primarily from ‘License to Drive':

    “Now Anderson, I want you to take a good look at my cup of coffee…”


  6. My favorite episode was when Will’s father show up and he he show us what means to be a REAL father.

  7. Jada Smith has commented but nothing from Will Smith as yet??

    • Different people grieve in different ways. I’m sure he’ll comment when he feels ready.

  8. God rest his soul. Goodbye Uncle Phil, you will be missed.

  9. RIP James Avery. He was great as Uncle Phil, and he was also the voice of Shredder in the original TMNT cartoon, so he gets geek cred. And he was from Atlantic City, where I’m from. It’s cool to see someone from your hometown or area become famous and play such a beloved character.

  10. Rest in Peace, James Avery. You will be missed, this has been a sad year for people leaving us from their beloved places in media. First James Gandolfini, leaving us with Tony Soprano’s amazing story, then Paul Walker, leaving us with Brien O’Conner, one of the coolest guys in that franchise, and now James Avery, the best Uncle anyone could have, and an amazing actor, as all the guys listed above. Tell me if I’m missing anyone from my list, and I apologize if I am. This was not a very happy new years, after all.

  11. Oh man. This is so depressing. What a loss.

  12. I think he was 65, not 68.

  13. RIP JAmes Avery. You will remain Uncle Phil forever in my Heart.

  14. Will: I love you, Uncle Phil, and I just don’t wanna lose you, any of you.
    Phil: You’re not gonna lose us. You are my son, Will. End of story. You just better be sure your butt is by a phone on Sunday.
    Will: You got it.
    (Will and Phil hug)

    Rest in peace.

  15. RIP James Avery. The world has lost another great talent. I will always remember Uncle Phil.

  16. Although I watched the odd episode of ‘Fresh Prince’, it’s ‘License to Drive’ I remember the most:

    “Now Anderson, I want you to take a good look at my cup of coffee…”


  17. Rest in peace, James. May God rest your soul.

  18. R.I.P James Avery..loved you as uncle phil

  19. DAMN !!!…Rest in peace Uncle Phil
    this sucks he was too young

  20. R.I.P. Shredder!

  21. RIP one of my favorite TV shows

  22. Well written. It may me tear up all over again.

    • R.I.P. Uncle Phil :(