Fresh Prince Patriarch James Avery Dead at 68

Get More: In Memoriam, News

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.

Developing….



Comments (47)

  • 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?

    Comment by Tran 2.0 – January 1, 2014 10:43 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Yeap, when Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were awesome. He was the Shredder… and Splinter on occasion….

      Comment by Cory – January 1, 2014 10:47 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • 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.

    Comment by Stacie – January 1, 2014 10:43 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • RIP I always liked him and even after Fresh Prince, liked seeing him on TV.

    Comment by Alice Mary H – January 1, 2014 10:44 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • my reaction to his death? “ohhhhhhhhhh noooooooooooooo!”
    loved this man, he was absolutely hilarious.
    rest in peace james, hope your in a better place.

    Comment by eddie – January 1, 2014 10:46 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • RIP Uncle Phil.

    Comment by Don J – January 1, 2014 10:59 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • 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

    Comment by Ross Moneypenny – January 1, 2014 11:08 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • 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?

    Comment by Michael S – January 1, 2014 11:11 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • CNN has confirmed: http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/01/showbiz/celebrity-news-gossip/james-avery-obit/index.html?

      Comment by Matt Webb Mitovich – January 1, 2014 11:19 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • 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.

      Comment by Wulf – January 1, 2014 11:23 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • “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?

      Comment by Brooke – January 1, 2014 11:39 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • 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.

      Comment by rowan77 – January 1, 2014 12:39 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • 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?!”.

      Comment by Sara – January 1, 2014 01:36 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • 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!

      Comment by Normal – January 1, 2014 03:16 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • 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.

      Comment by Anita3kids – January 2, 2014 12:41 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • 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.

    Comment by Janice – January 1, 2014 11:24 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • your spelling of the word peace Janice, kind of conjures up an entirely different image of the state his body is resting in!

      Comment by tdoa – January 1, 2014 12:06 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • This is so sad to hear. He will be greatly missed. I loved him on the Fresh Prince.

    Comment by Allyson – January 1, 2014 11:28 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • May his soul and the souls of all the departed rest in peace

    Comment by TvPeong – January 1, 2014 11:44 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • :(

    Comment by Dean – January 1, 2014 12:28 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • May he chillin’ out maxin’ in peace.

    Comment by Et al – January 1, 2014 12:46 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Deadline reports he was 68. Which is correct? I’d hate to see the lovely man and talented actor go.

    Comment by Jared Munson – January 1, 2014 12:58 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • 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. :(

    Comment by Sara – January 1, 2014 01:38 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • 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?

    Comment by Michele R – January 1, 2014 02:08 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Yes, he was way to young to die. A funny talented man.

      Comment by Jess – January 2, 2014 05:29 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • He was 68, not 65 years old

    Comment by Jay – January 1, 2014 02:45 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • IMDB has his birthday listed as 11/27/48, which makes him 65.

      Comment by Meg – January 1, 2014 03:19 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • 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.

        Comment by bluefairy – January 2, 2014 12:54 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Yes, that correction of fact has since surfaced and been edited into the story.

      Comment by Matt Webb Mitovich – January 1, 2014 03:55 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Very sad news. I enjoyed watching him on Fresh Prince and seeing him in things here and there in recent years. RIP

    Comment by Jess (@CrashandBurn9) – January 1, 2014 03:34 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Sad very sad, RIP

    Comment by hello – January 1, 2014 03:46 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I loved him in “fresh prince”…he was awesome

    Comment by Helen Crain – January 1, 2014 03:46 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Very sad… Rest In Peace Mr. Avery

    Comment by Bibi – January 1, 2014 03:57 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Very talented individual. This is a sad loss. May he rest in peace and may his family find comfort during this sad time

    Comment by leigh – January 1, 2014 03:58 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • RIP

    Comment by Diz – January 1, 2014 04:29 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • 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

    Comment by linda t – January 1, 2014 08:10 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • R.I.P. Uncle Phil. So sad!

    Comment by Mangochic – January 1, 2014 08:22 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • 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.

    Comment by Anita3kids – January 2, 2014 01:02 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • 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.

    Comment by Bryant – January 2, 2014 05:11 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • oh no Uncle Phil… may be rest in peace (with a little Tom Jones playing for him)

    Comment by RUCookie – January 2, 2014 07:26 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • My prayers go out to his family and friends. May he rest in peace.

    Comment by KCC – January 2, 2014 07:34 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • 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.

    Comment by Antoinette more – January 2, 2014 09:39 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • 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.

    Comment by M Z – January 2, 2014 10:02 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • 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

    Comment by Bill Briggs – January 2, 2014 11:42 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • So sad to hear this. He seemed like such a great man, and I appreciated his on-screen work.

    Comment by Lori – January 2, 2014 12:53 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Loved him as Uncle Phil, and he did a great job voicing Shredder.

    Comment by Mikael – January 6, 2014 09:41 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • he was 65 not 68…

    Comment by mank – January 29, 2014 01:25 PM PDT  Reply To This Post

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