'Fresh Prince' Star James Avery Died at 68

PHOTO: James Avery during at the Best Friends Animal Societys Annual Fundraiser in Culver City, Calif. on Sept. 14, 2006.
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James Avery, the actor who played Uncle Phil on "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air," died on Tuesday, his publicist confirmed to ABC News.

The actor, 68, died from complications of open heart surgery, publicist Cynthia Snyder said. He died in Glendale, Calif.

Born James La Rue Avery in Virginia, Avery was raised in Atlantic City. After high school, he served in the Vietnam War from 1968 to 1969 as a member of the U.S. Navy. After returning home, Avery moved to San Diego, where he wrote poetry and TV scripts for PBS, including the Emmy Award-winning production, "Ameda Speaks: Poet James Avery."

However, Avery perhaps was most beloved for his acting. In addition to his most famous role on the sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air," he also lent his voice to several animated TV series, including "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and "Iron Man." He also appeared on the big screen in films including "Dr. Dolittle 2" and "License to Drive," and hosted the travel series "Going Places" on PBS.

Most recently, Avery worked on Zach Braff's film, "Wish I Was Here," which will premiere at the Sundance film festival.

" I'm deeply saddened to say that James Avery has passed away," his "Fresh Prince" co-star Alfonso Ribeiro tweeted. "He was a second father to me. I will miss him greatly."

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

Snyder said plans are being made for a memorial service.

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