It was reported that Avery was undergoing open heart surgery in a Los Angeles suburb hospital, when complications arose and resulted in his death. He is survived by his wife Barbara, stepson Kevin Waters and mother Florence J. Avery.
Avery became a household name after his portrayal of the stern-yet-lovable “Uncle Phil” in the TV sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” with the protagonist being Will Smith. His character, Philip Banks was a successful lawyer – and later turned judge – with whom the nephew, Will Smith, comes to stay. Uncle Phil was widely adored and was ranked 34 in TV Guide’s “50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time.” His acting career spanned a long time in which he appeared in numerous other popular soaps like Dallas, as Judge Fowler, 1988; NYPD Blue, as Steve Pines, 2004; That ’70s Show, as Officer Kennedy, 2004; and the most recent being Grey’s Anatomy, as Sam, 2012, to name a few.
James Avery’s death is not only grieved by Uncle Phil fans. Avery voiced several animated characters which include “Shredder” of the 1987 television series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, War Machine (James Rhodes) in Iron Man, “Junkyard Dog” in Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling. Owing to his acting skills, he was also cast in several films.
Born in Virginia, James Avery grew up in Atlantic City. After graduating high school, he served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War (1968-1969) and later moved to California to study drama and literature. Being a classically trained artist, it wasn’t long before he became an indelible television actor.
Avery’s death is just one week after Jeff Pollack was found dead. Pollack was a producer of the show Fresh Prince of Bel Air and directed the comedy movies Lost & Found and Booty Call. He also directed the drama Above The Rim. The 54-year-old producer and director was found dead in a Hermosa Beach, California park. The Greenbelt Park where his body was found is popular for jogging and Pollack was wearing jogging attire when he was found.
The grim news of James Avery’s death saddened several celebrities. The cast of “The fresh prince of Bel-Air” vented out their feelings in social networking sites . His former co-star Alfonso Ribeiro, who played Uncle Phil’s son, 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.” Tatyana Ali, Uncle Phil’s daughter followed suit, tweeting, “James was my teacher my protector & the most magnificent actor. We’re feeling his loss very deeply. He’ll always be a part of me.” Will Smith’s wife similarly posted on Facebook, “I was hoping to start the new year differently but we have lost yet another friend. Our condolences to Aunt Florence (his mother), Miss Barbara (his wife) and all those who loved him. Rest in peace James.” Avery will continue to be grieved by Uncle Phil fans everywhere.
By Nabaita Paul