James Avery, Uncle on "Fresh Prince," Dead at 68

Thursday, Jan 2, 2014  |  Updated 11:20 AM EDT
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    James Avery, the character actor who laid down the law as the Honorable Philip Banks in "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," has died.

    Avery's publicist, Cynthia Snyder, told NBC News' Today that Avery died Tuesday night at the age of 68. He died in Glendale, Calif., due to complications from open heart surgery, Today reported.

    Although the Associated Press reported that he was 65 when he died, his publicist told Today she was reading the correct date of birth -- Nov. 27, 1945 -- from his driver's license, making him 68.

    Avery played Will Smith's uncle on the popular TV series. His movie credits included "Fletch," ''The Prince of Egypt" and "8 Million Ways to Die."

    Alfonso Ribeiro, who played Carlton on "Fresh Prince," mourned his one-time co-star on Facebook Wednesday.

    "The world has lost a truly special man," he wrote. "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."

    Before his death, Avery had worked until September 2013 shooting the Zach Braff-directed movie "Wish I Was Here," set to premiere at the Sundance Festival, his publicist told Today.

    The late actor is survived by Barbara Avery, his wife of 26 years, as well as his mother Florence Avery and his step-son Kevin Waters, according to Today.

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