James Avery Dead; Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air Star Died Following Open Heart Surgery

James Avery -- WireImage

James Avery, the veteran actor best known for his role as Philip Banks - Will Smith's uncle on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," has died, a rep for Avery confirmed to Access Hollywood .

The actor died in a Los Angeles-area hospital on New Year's Eve. He was 68.

Avery died in Glendale, Calif., "due to complications from open heart surgery," the rep said in a statement to Access .

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Avery's "Fresh Prince" onscreen son, Alfonso Ribeiro, also confirmed the news on his personal Facebook page on Wednesday morning.

"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," Ribeiro wrote on his Facebook page.

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Among Avery's other notable acting credits were roles in numerous TV series, including "The Closer," "That '70s Show," "Soul Food," "L.A. Law" and "Amen." He also lent his voice to several popular animated series, including the voice of Shredder in the original "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and War Machine in the "Iron Man" cartoon.

He is survived by his wife of 26 years, Barbara Avery, his mother, Florence Avery and his stepson Kevin Waters, his rep noted.

As for his final project, Avery "worked until September of this year shooting the film 'Wish I Was Here' directed by Zach Braff and the film will premiere at Sundance," the rep added.

Plans are being made for a memorial service.

-- Eric Anderson

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