Fresh Prince Patriarch James Avery Dead at 68

James Avery Dead at 65James Avery of TV’s The Fresh Prince of Bel Air died on New Year’s Eve, CNN has confirmed. He was 68.

Avery’s publicist told The Associated Press that the actor died following complications from open heart surgery.

Avery’s TV son, Alfonso Ribeiro (aka the Fresh Prince’s cousin Carlton), announced the sad news on Twitter this morning:

Riberio also shared the news and his thoughts via his Facebook page:

The world has lost a truly special man. I am very saddened 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.

In addition to his turn as Fresh Prince‘s Judge Philip Banks and voicing Shredder on the late-’80s/early -’90s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, Avery’s more recent TV credits include episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, Harry’s Law and Sherri Shepherd’s short-lived eponymous sitcom, and a recurring run as The Closer‘s Deputy ME Dr. Crippen.


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  1. Tran 2.0 says:

    Wasn’t he the same actor who was the voice of the Shredder in the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series back in the late ’80s?

  2. Stacie says:

    So sad to hear this. I saw him more recently on some TV show and he looked much better and healthier than his days as Uncle Phil. Very sad. That show would have been nothing without the antagonist Uncle Phil to Will Smith’s protagonist. Thoughts go to his family.

  3. Alice Mary H says:

    RIP I always liked him and even after Fresh Prince, liked seeing him on TV.

  4. eddie says:

    my reaction to his death? “ohhhhhhhhhh noooooooooooooo!”
    loved this man, he was absolutely hilarious.
    rest in peace james, hope your in a better place.

  5. Don J says:

    RIP Uncle Phil.

  6. Ross Moneypenny says:

    Very sad to see him gone I grew up watching fresh prince and was always good seeing him on tv the world has lost a good one

  7. Michael S says:

    I think it’s still fake. Too many unknown things. Why is the illness he went to surgery for undisclosed? Why did his wife leave to get something to eat when he’s a celebrity and someone could easily bring food to her? Why are all our sources just hearsay from facebook and twitter? Why aren’t reporters at the hospital reporting it to us?

    • Wulf says:

      Are you purposely this dense? Hospitals won’t disclose the condition of anyone. I had a bother go to the hospital for surgery and they wouldn’t tell us why. It’s doctor patient. Not all actors are big headed. Some like to do things themselves.

    • Brooke says:

      “Why is the illness he went to surgery for undisclosed?” You mean, why is no one broadcasting someone’s personal medical information to the press? Are you serious?

    • rowan77 says:

      You’re one of these people, huh? The ones who find conspiracy behind everything. The hospital is not allowed to release information about a patient – even a deceased one) without the family’s express permission (HIPAA Laws – check them out). His family is likely reeling in devastation and in mourning. I am sure there was not one moment of thought about letting the fans know details this close to his death. And that;s how it should be when someone you love has suddenly died.

      His wife probably went to get something to eat because there was no known immediate danger of his death. She likely hadn’t left his side nor eaten for hours. Give her a break.

    • Sara says:

      It’s no longer undisclosed anymore. He had open heart surgery and there were complications afterwards. And even if it were still undisclosed – who cares? It’s nobody’s business what he died of, it’s up to the family to share that information. It’s up to them to let the public know. After someone dies, their last concern is “Oh dear! What ever will we tell the reporters and media he died of?!”.

    • Normal says:

      You are more than a MORON!! You might want to start prepping because one day the world will end, but I am sure you will has died of natural causes long before that ever happens, you conspiracy theory people need to get a new hobby!

    • Anita3kids says:

      I agree . I heard it was open heart surgery. One site says he was 65, this article states he was 68?
      As a previous nurse, yes his wife could easily have gotten food brought to her but if it was Heart surgery, that can take many hours & maybe she needed a break? Staying in the waiting room can be nerve wracking as well as upsetting.
      I too am puzzled by the lack information from any type of TV News source. It’s all alittle sketchy to me. That’s Hollywood for you…
      I was unaware he was married.
      He WILL BE SADLY MISSED ! Thoughts & prayers go out to his family & friends at this time.

  8. Janice says:

    OMG! I had so envisioned him as the lawyer at the homeless shelter if John Grisham’s book Street Lawyer ever made it to the Big Screen. May he rest in piece and may his class as an actor inspire generations of young black males I’m the craft.

    • tdoa says:

      your spelling of the word peace Janice, kind of conjures up an entirely different image of the state his body is resting in!

  9. Allyson says:

    This is so sad to hear. He will be greatly missed. I loved him on the Fresh Prince.

  10. TvPeong says:

    May his soul and the souls of all the departed rest in peace

  11. Et al says:

    May he chillin’ out maxin’ in peace.

  12. Jared Munson says:

    Deadline reports he was 68. Which is correct? I’d hate to see the lovely man and talented actor go.

  13. Sara says:

    Sad news :( RIP James Avery. I threw my back out the day after Christmas and it made me think of the episode of Fresh Prince when Uncle Phil was trying to move a trunk or something and he was immobile for like the whole episode. :(

  14. Michele R says:

    Believe it or not children and caretakers have to leave the bedside from time to time to eat or use the bathroom. They could have withheld the cause of death but as a celebrity, a beloved one at that they were kind enough what it was. He seemed to be a very caring person with charm and class. Whether he is 65 or 68 doesn’t matter. Either of those ages are too young to die. God has other plans for him. RIP Mr Avery. I enjoyed your craft very much. No comments from Will Smith yet?

  15. Jay says:

    He was 68, not 65 years old

    • Meg says:

      IMDB has his birthday listed as 11/27/48, which makes him 65.

      • bluefairy says:

        And Wikipedia has his birthday listed as 11/27/45, which makes him 68. Neither are perfect sources, but if Matt went to the trouble of correcting the article, he must have found proof that the correct age is actually 68.

    • Matt Webb Mitovich says:

      Yes, that correction of fact has since surfaced and been edited into the story.

  16. Very sad news. I enjoyed watching him on Fresh Prince and seeing him in things here and there in recent years. RIP

  17. hello says:

    Sad very sad, RIP

  18. Helen Crain says:

    I loved him in “fresh prince”…he was awesome

  19. Bibi says:

    Very sad… Rest In Peace Mr. Avery

  20. leigh says:

    Very talented individual. This is a sad loss. May he rest in peace and may his family find comfort during this sad time

  21. linda t says:

    It really stun me when my son told me about uncle Phil I watches fresh prince every morning I love all episodes. My prayers goes out to his family he will be truely miss

  22. Mangochic says:

    R.I.P. Uncle Phil. So sad!

  23. Anita3kids says:

    In reply to many people’s responses ( I have left one myself)
    It’s just human curiosity, human nature to Wonder WHAT/WHY actors pass.
    We feel as if we know them in some sense by inviting them into our homes week after week watching them on TV portraying a part. That’s why some people wanted to know the cause.
    Look at the recent passing of the Superb Actor JAMES GANDOLFINI for example. News Stations were cutting into already broadcasting shows on progress to give updates.
    Living in the same State & I resided near where they filmed the show ( Sopranos) at the time , The cast & crew were all very nice to the locals. They WERE like Family.

    GOD BLESS YOU JAMES AVERY. You can see how saddened we all are of your passing & as I said in a previous post… YOU WILL BE MISSED.

  24. Bryant says:

    James Avery was a very, very, classy guy who was stately and larger than life. So much so that we all both morn his death and celebrate his life as Uncle Phil though that was merely his character on Television. He touched us all and will be greatly missed. RIP Mr. Avery.

  25. RUCookie says:

    oh no Uncle Phil… may be rest in peace (with a little Tom Jones playing for him)

  26. KCC says:

    My prayers go out to his family and friends. May he rest in peace.

  27. Antoinette more says:

    RIP James Very. You will be missed deeply by everyone who knew you and or watched you do your thing on fresh prince. You are loved and will be missed by the entire world that watched aand knew you. Great personith an extraordinary personality. This is not a Good By, but a see you later……. Keep’em laughing.

  28. M Z says:

    JA was great in TFPOBA. I wonder if he ate better, exercised and was therefore not so obese, if he would have lived for many more years.

  29. Bill Briggs says:

    never met the man in person but I bet he was a cool dude from his swagger and the way he acted was really I think who he was going to really miss that guy God Bless RIP

  30. Lori says:

    So sad to hear this. He seemed like such a great man, and I appreciated his on-screen work.

  31. Mikael says:

    Loved him as Uncle Phil, and he did a great job voicing Shredder.

  32. mank says:

    he was 65 not 68…