FRESH PRINCE's 'Uncle Phil' James Avery Dies at 68

TMZ reports that James Avery, best known as patriarch Philip Banks on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" has passed away at age 68. The actor recently underwent open heart surgery and died of complications from the operation.

Alfonso Ribeiro, who portrayed Avery's son on "Fresh Prince" posted a message on his Facebook page commenting on the loss: "The world has lost a truly special man. I am very sad to say that James Avery has passed. Even though he played my father on TV, he was a wonderful father figure to me in life. He will be deeply missed."

Avery's 'Fresh Prince' character Philip Banks was ranked #34 in TV Guide's "50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time." The actor also provided The Voice of Shredder in the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles television series, as well as War Machine in the animated series Iron Man and Junkyard Dog in Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling. He played Michael Kelso's commanding officer at the police academy late in the series run of the popular sitcom That '70s Show.

Avery made guest appearances on "Grey's Anatomy," "The Closer," "L.A. Law," and "The Jeffersons" and appeared in three TV movies, most recently, "Go, Bolivia, Go!".

Two years ago, he reunited with most of his "Fresh Prince" cast, including Will Smith, at a charity event.

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