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James Avery, 'Fresh Prince' Uncle Phil and UCSD Grad, Dies at 68

In recent years, Avery performed at the La Jolla Playhouse and spoke at a commencement ceremony on UC San Diego's campus in La Jolla.

Photo Courtesy: UC San Diego's Thurgood Marshall College
Photo Courtesy: UC San Diego's Thurgood Marshall College

James Avery, best known for playing Will Smith's uncle on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, died Tuesday in Los Angeles following complications from open-heart surgery. Avery, 68, was a UC San Diego graduate and actor.

"I'm deeply saddened to say that James Avery has passed away," Alfonso Ribeiro, who played Carlton on the show tweeted on Wednesday. "He was a second father to me. I will miss him greatly."

Avery most recently visited La Jolla as a speaker for UC San Diego's 2012 commencement ceremony in June 2012. (See video above.)

UCSD noted that Uncle Phil was ranked #34 in TV Guide’s “50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time.” He is also well known for providing the voice of Shredder in the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles television show.  

Avery entered the Navy after graduating high school and served in the Vietnam War for two years, according to his bio posted by the university.

Upon leaving the military, Mr. Avery relocated to San Diego and focused on writing television scripts and poetry for PBS. He received an Emmy Award for his Ameda Speaks: Poet James Avery at PBS and earned a scholarship to UC San Diego. He studied Theatre and Literature and graduated in 1976.   

"Mr. Avery is an alumnus of Thurgood Marshall College and has been extremely generous to future generations of UC San Diego students," the university posted online.

In addition, in 2010, Avery portray the spirit of Thurgood Marshal, legendary American legal scholar and Supreme Court Justice, at the La Jolla Playhouse.

He is survived by his mother, Florence J. Avery, and his wife, Barbara, according to the Washington Post.

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