James Avery, the actor known as the beloved Uncle Phil off of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” died December 31, 2013 , on New Year’s Eve. The cause of death was complications from open-heart surgery, said his manager, Toni Benson. Avery had surgery on November 11 and died at a hospital in Glendale, California. Born on November 27, 1948 he died at 65 years of age.
Although best known as the uncle/patriarch and judge “Philip Banks” on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990), James Avery is a classically trained actor and scholar. A native of Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA, he joined the US Navy after graduating high school and served in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969. Upon leaving the military, he moved to San Diego, California and began writing TV scripts and poetry for PBS. He won an Emmy for production during his tenure there and deservedly won a scholarship to the University of California at San Diego from which he earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Drama and Literature. In addition to his sitcom popularity, he has lent his voice to over a dozen animated television series and features. He also has been the primary host of the popular PBS travel and adventure series Going Places (1997). Armed with a diverse resume of credits, James Avery remains a unique creative force as convincing a comedian as he is a Shakespearean character. His trademark is often playing legal or high-level professional characters, his beard, and deep booming voice. His hobbies were snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing, and swimming. James Avery is survived by his spouse Barbara Avery, who he was married to since 1988.
While the 80’s had the Cosby Show, the 9o’s had The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and with that a great TV dad that James Avery gave us. Like Cliff Huxtable, Uncle Phil was a high level professional, first being a lawyer and later on becoming a prominent judge. While stories run full speed telling of fathers abandoning their children, this character not only was there for his own, but also took his nephew under his wing, becoming a father figure for a teen who quite frankly didn’t have his father. That’s how we will remember him — one of the great TV Dads.