James Avery, best known for his role as Uncle Phil in the hit 1990s sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," died Tuesday of complications from open-heart surgery performed back in November.
James Avery, 68, died at a hospital in Glendale, Calif., where he was receiving treatment, reported CNN
From 1990 to 1996, Avery often played the foil to Will Smith's character, as the no-nonsense but compassionate uncle who took him in, during the series that launched Smith's acting career.
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The series, which was co-executive produced by Quincy Jones and created by Andy and Susan Borowitz, cast Avery as a former civil rights activist and Harvard Law-trained attorney who became a mentor to Smith's street-wise Philadelphia character, according to CNN.
"It seemed like he was doing better," Florence Avery, James Avery's mother told the New York Daily News
, saying she would get reports back from Avery's wife Barbara. "I heard him say something in the background. Barbara planned to spend the night at the hospital but said she had to run some errands first. When she came back, she called me to say he was gone."
Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith's wife, issued a statement on Facebook New Year's Day.
Alfonso Ribeiro, who played the son of Avery's character on the sitcom, also issued a statement on Twitter.
According to The Hollywood Reporter
, Avery, a Virginia native who was raised in Atlantic City, was a Navy veteran and served in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969. He earned his bachelor's degree in drama and literature from the University of California, San Diego while writing poetry and television scripts for PBS, stated The Hollywood Reporter.
He was married to Barbara Avery, the dean of students at Los Angeles' Occidental College, for 26 years, according to CNN and the New York Daily News.
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