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James Avery Dead: 'Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air' Actor Dies At 68

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"Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" actor James Avery died in a Los Angeles hospital last night (Dec. 31), according to TMZ. He was 68.

His publicist confirmed the news of his death to CNN, as did his former co-star Alfonso Ribeiro, who tweeted, "I'm deeply saddened to say that James Avery has passed away. He was a second father to me. I will miss him greatly."

Avery had recently undergone open heart surgery and reportedly died from complications from the operation.

A classically trained actor and poet, Avery grew up in Atlantic City, N.J., where he was raised by a single mother. He served in the Navy during the Vietnam War and first appeared onscreen as a dancer in an uncredited role in the 1980 film "The Blues Brothers."

Avery also voiced characters for many animated series, most notably for 1987's "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and the 1990s "Iron Man" series. He will, of course, be remembered for playing Phillip Banks, the stern but loving uncle to Will Smith's character on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air."

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that James Avery was 65 when he died. He was actually 68 years old.

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