James Avery, who is popular for his role as Will Smith's uncle Philip Banks on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air", has passed away. Avery's manager Toni Benson said that the actor died on Tuesday, December 31 at a hospital in in Glendale, California due to complications from open-heart surgery. He was 68.
In a phone interview with New York Daily News, Avery's mother Florence said that her son's wife Barbara was "practically living" at the hospital when Avery was under treatment. On Tuesday, Barbara called her, saying that the actor seemingly felt better. "It seemed like he was doing better. I heard him say something in the background," she recalled.
"Barbara planned to spend the night at the hospital but said she had to run some errands first. When she came back, she called me to say he was gone. It breaks my heart. My child was a great person who helped anyone he could. He was really just a nice person whose great passion in life was reading," she added.
After learning of the sad news, Smith's wife Jada Pinkett Smith took to Facebook to offer condolences. "Our condolences to aunt Florence (his mother), Miss Barbara (his wife) and all those who loved him," she wrote on Wednesday. Alfonso Ribeiro, who played his on-screen son on the popular 1990s show, also paid tribute on social media. "I'm deeply saddened to say that James Avery has passed away. He was a second father to me. I will miss him greatly," he tweeted.
Avery was raised by his mother in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Prior to his career as an actor, he served in the Navy during Vietnam War. Avery's first appearance in big screen was in 1980's movie "The Blues Brothers". The actor also appeared in many shows such as "CSI", "That '70s Show", "The Closer" and "L.A. Law". In September, he took part in the filming of Zach Braff-directed movie "Wish I Was Here".
I'm deeply saddened to say that James Avery has passed away. He was a second father to me. I will miss him greatly. pic.twitter.com/UrW0EeBFbO— Alfonso Ribeiro (@alfonso_ribeiro) January 1, 2014