James Avery of ‘Fresh Prince’ fame dies at 68

NEW YORK — James Avery, the bulky character actor who laid down the law at home and on the job as the Honorable Philip Banks in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” has died.

Avery’s publicist, Cynthia Snyder, told The Associated Press that Avery died Tuesday in Glendale, Calif., following complications from open heart surgery. He was 68, Snyder said.

Avery, who stood more than 6 feet tall, played the family patriarch and a wealthy attorney and judge on the popular TV comedy that launched the acting career of Will Smith as Banks’ troublemaking nephew.

The sitcom, which aired on NBC from 1990 to 1996, was set in the Banks’ mansion, to which Smith’s character was sent from Philadelphia when things got tough in his own neighborhood. Fans came to know the imposing Banks as “Uncle Phil.”

Avery liked to say that the way to be an actor was to act, and he had a busy and diverse career before, during and after “Fresh Prince.” His TV credits included “Grey’s Anatomy,” ”NYPD Blue” and “Dallas,” and among his many films were “Fletch,” ”Nightflyers” and “8 Million Ways to Die.” His voice alone brought him many jobs, notably as Shredder in the animated TV series “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

According to Snyder, he will be seen in the film “Wish I Was Here,” directed by Zach Braff and scheduled to premiere later this month at the Sundance festival.

Avery grew up in Atlantic City, N.J., and served in the Navy in Vietnam in the late 1960s. After returning to the states, he settled in California and studied drama and literature at the University of California at San Diego.

He is survived by his wife, Barbara, and stepson Kevin Waters.

More in Local News

Man arrested after police find van full of drugs, cash and guns

An officer on patrol noticed a vehicle by itself in the middle of a WinCo parking lot at 2 a.m.

Jim Mathis, the Vietnam veteran whose Marysville garden was recently featured in The Herald, died Wednesday. Mathis, who suffered from PTSD and cancer, found solace in his beautiful garden. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Vietnam veteran Jim Mathis found peace in his garden

The Marysville man who served two tours died Wednesday after suffering from cancer and PTSD.

Smith Island habitat restoration cost to rise $1.2 million

The project is intended to increase survival rates for juvenile chinook salmon.

Add deputies and bump taxes a bit, executive proposes

Dave Somers’ Snohomish County budget proposal also would address traffic problems in neighborhoods.

County councilman proposes banning safe injection sites

Nate Nehring says county officials also should find “credible, long-term solutions to addiction.”

Car crashes near Everett after State Patrol pursuit

The driver and a second person in the car suffered injuries.

They chose the longshot candidate to fill a vacant seat

Sultan Mayor Carolyn Eslick will serve as representative for the 39th legislative district.

Scenic Oregon highway likely to remain closed until spring

Dead and dying trees in forests scorched by wildfires make Oregon Route 242 unsafe.

Surplus hatchery salmon released into northern Idaho creek

Extra spring chinook returned to the hatchery this year, so the fish are surplus.

Most Read