James La Rue Avery
November 27, 1945
Suffolk, Virginia, U.S.
|Died||December 31, 2013 (aged 68)|
Glendale, California, U.S.
James La Rue Avery (November 27, 1945 – December 31, 2013) was an American actor. He was best known for his roles as Philip Banks in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Shredder in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Judge Michael Conover on L.A. Law, Steve Yeager in The Brady Bunch Movie, Haroud Hazi Bin in Aladdin, and Dr. Crippen on The Closer (2005–2007).
Avery was born on November 27, 1945, in Pughsville, Virginia (present day Suffolk, Virginia,) to mother Florence J. Avery. His father denied paternity and was not listed on his birth certificate. Florence would eventually move James to Atlantic City, New Jersey. He served in the U.S. Navy in the Vietnam War from 1968 to 1969, and eventually moved to San Diego, California, where he began to write poetry and TV scripts for PBS. He won an Emmy for production during his tenure there, and then received a scholarship to UC San Diego, where he attended Thurgood Marshall College (then Third College), earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in drama and literature in 1976.
Avery began his career in the 1980s with appearances in television series such as NBC's Hill Street Blues, Showtime sitcom Brothers as Bubba Dean, Amen, FM and L.A. Law. In the 1990s, he achieved prominence for his role as Philip Banks in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, a character that was ranked number 34 in TV Guide's "50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time". After The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air ended, he played the lead role of Alonzo Sparks in the UPN comedy series Sparks that lasted for two seasons. Other notable roles in television included Dr. Crippen in The Closer, Charles Haysbert in The Division, and Michael Kelso's commanding officer at the police academy late in the series run of That '70s Show.
Among his most notable voice credits are the voices of Shredder in the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series, and James Rhodes/War Machine in the 1990s Iron Man series. He also lent his powerful bass voice as Junkyard Dog in Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling (1985–1986), Turbo in Rambo and the Forces of Freedom (1986), and Haroud Hazi Bin in Aladdin (1994).
Avery was the commencement speaker for his alma mater, UC San Diego's Thurgood Marshall College, in 2007 and again in 2012.
In 1988, Avery married his girlfriend Barbara. Barbara was dean of student life at Loyola Marymount University. He had no biological children, but was a stepfather to Barbara's son, Kevin Waters.
On December 31, 2013, Avery died at the age of 68 at Glendale Memorial Medical Center. His publicist, Cynthia Snyder, told the Associated Press that Avery died following complications from open heart surgery. Janet Hubert, who portrayed his on-screen wife Vivian on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air for the first three seasons, said after his death: "RIP James, all the world is a stage, and we are all merely players in this production called LIFE." Will Smith commented on Avery's death, saying: "Some of my greatest lessons in acting, living, and being a respectable human being came through James Avery. Every young man needs an Uncle Phil. Rest in peace." Alfonso Ribeiro, who played Avery's on-screen son Carlton said, “I'm deeply saddened to say that James Avery has passed away. He was a second father to me. I will miss him greatly". Joseph Marcell (Geoffrey) called Avery a "gentle giant".
Avery's remains were cremated and scattered near the Pacific Ocean. In April 2020, Will Smith reunited with the cast of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air on a video conference honoring Avery's best moments on the show.
AveryFest is an annual African-American cultural and music festival held in the United States. The event, named in honor of James Avery, had its inaugural event September 2, 2023 in Avery's hometown of Suffolk, Virginia. The event is held at Bennett's Creek Park each year, only minutes away from the Pughsville neighborhood where Avery was born. 
In 2023, the first year of the festival included special guest appearances from Avery's wife, Barbara Avery, his TV wife from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, actress Daphne Maxwell Reid, and a special jazz spotlight in memory of Avery, who loved jazz music. 
|1980||The Stunt Man||Customer at Diner||Uncredited|
|1980||The Blues Brothers||Dancer||Uncredited|
|1985||Appointment with Fear||Connors|
|1986||Fist of the North Star||Fang||Voice (1991 Streamline Pictures dub)|
|1986||The Eleventh Commandment||Larry|
|1986||8 Million Ways to Die||Deputy|
|1986||The Ladies Club||Joe|
|1987||Three for the Road||Clarence|
|1987||Deadly Daphne's Revenge||Det. Wood|
|1987||Jake's M.O.||Abel Barnes|
|1988||License to Drive||Les' DMV Examiner|
|1991||Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time||Lt. Coberly|
|1991||The Linguini Incident||Phil|
|1993||Little Miss Millions||Agent Noah Hollander|
|1995||The Brady Bunch Movie||Steve Yeager|
|1997||Spirit Lost||Dr. Glidden|
|1998||The Prince of Egypt||Additional Characters||Voice|
|1999||Out in Fifty||Cappy|
|2000||Dancing in September||Mr. Warner|
|2001||Dr. Dolittle 2||Eldon|
|2001||Chasing Sunsets||Mr. Burken|
|2004||Raise Your Voice||Mr. Gantry|
|2004||Hair Show||Seymour Gold|
|2005||Lethal Eviction||Gus Winter|
|2005||The Third Wish||George|
|2005||A Christmas Wish||Saint||Short|
|2006||Restraining Order||Judge Sanderson|
|2006||Think Tank||Uncle John|
|2007||Who's Your Caddy?||Caddy Mack|
|2007||Divine Intervention||Rev. Matthews|
|2008||His Good Will||Mr. Cooper||Short|
|2008||Leave with It||Dr. Leon||Short|
|2009||Steppin: The Movie||The Chancellor|
|2010||Let the Game Begin||Mark Hanley|
|2010||The Grind||Modelo Snipes|
|2014||Wish I Was Here||Audition actor #2||Final role, posthumous release|
|1983||Antony and Cleopatra||Mardian||Television film|
|1983||Tales of the Gold Monkey||Gabriel||Episode: "God Save the Queen"|
|1983||Newhart||Construction Guy||Episode: "Heaven Knows Mr. Utley"|
|1983||The Jeffersons||Coleman||Episode: "Father Christmas"|
|1983-1984||Simon & Simon||Huey, Roy||2 episodes|
|1984||Hill Street Blues||Tolliver||3 episodes|
|1984||Legmen||No Neck||Episode: "I Shall Be Re-Released"|
|1984||Hardcastle and McCormick||Episode: "Scared Stiff"|
|1984||Webster||Judge||Episode: "Webster Long"|
|1984||Fist of the North Star||Fang||Voice; English dub|
|1984||The Dukes of Hazzard||Charlie||Episode: "Cool Hands, Luke & Bo"|
|1984-1985||Brothers||Bubba Dean||2 episodes|
|1985||Street Hawk||Councilman Waters||Pilot|
|1985||St. Elsewhere||Mental Patient||Episode: "Give the Boy a Hand"|
|1985||Cagney & Lacey||Episode: "Who Says It's Fair"|
|1985||Scarecrow and Mrs. King||Nabuti||Episode: "Murder Between Friends"|
|1985||Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling||Junkyard Dog||Voice|
|1985||George Burns Comedy Week||Episode: "The Assignment"|
|1985||The A-Team||Episode: "The Heart of Rock n' Roll"|
|1985||Moonlighting||Reuben King||Episode: "Twas the Episode Before Christmas"|
|1986||Karate Kommandos||Additional voices|
|1986||Amazing Stories||Chief Hansen||Episode: "Hell Toupee"|
|1986||Rambo and the Forces of Freedom||Turbo||Voice|
|1986||Samaritan: The Mitch Snyder Story||Hank Dudney||Television film|
|1986||Sunday Drive||Oliver||Television film|
|1986-1989||The Real Ghostbusters||Killerwatt / Judge||Voice, 3 episodes|
|1986-1989||Amen||Arnie Samples / Rev. Crawford||5 episodes|
|1987||Jake's M.O.||Abel Barnes||Television film|
|1987||Jake and the Fatman||Episode: "Fatal Attraction"|
|1987-1989||Valerie||Judge N. Keller / Mr. Erdman||2 episodes|
|1987−1993||Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles||Shredder||Voice, 103 episodes|
|1988||Dallas||Judge Fowler||Episode: "Malice in Dallas"|
|1988||Beauty and the Beast||Winslow|
|1988||227||Jo-Jo||Episode: "My Aching Back"|
|1988||Heart and Soul||Harlan Sinclair||Pilot|
|1988-1992||L.A. Law||Judge Michael Conover||9 episodes|
|1989||Full Exposure: The Sex Tapes Scandal||Earl||Television film|
|1989||Roe vs. Wade||Television film|
|1989||FM||Quentin Lamoreaux||TV series|
|1989||A Different World||The Pin Punisher||Episode: "To Have and Have Not"|
|1989||Turn Back the Clock||Physical Therapist||Television film|
|1990||Night Court||Judge Hopkins||Episode: "Wedding Bell Blues"|
|1990||To My Daughter||Television film|
|1990-1996||The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air||Philip Banks||Main role; 148 episodes|
|1991||Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles||Shredder||Voice, television film|
|1991||The Legend of Prince Valiant||Sir Bryant||Voice, 9 episodes|
|1992||Roc||Dale Hammers||Episode: "The Car Accident from Heaven"|
|1993||Without Warning: Terror in the Towers||Fred Ferby||Television film|
|1993||Family Matters||Himself||Episode: "Scenes from a Mall"|
|1993-1994||American Experience||Charles Hamilton Houston / Narrator||2 episodes|
|1994||Hart to Hart: Old Friends Never Die||Chess Player||Television film|
|1994||A Friend to Die For||Agent Gilwood||Television film|
|1994||Aladdin||Haroud Hazi Bin||Voice, 11 episodes|
|1994-1995||Iron Man||Jim Rhodes / War Machine||Voice, 7 episodes|
|1995||ABC Weekend Special||Headman||Voice, episode: "Jirimpimbira – An African Folk Tale"|
|1995||Murder One||Judge Nathaniel Alexander||Episode: "Chapter Five"|
|1996||Gargoyles||The Shaman||Voice, episode: "Walk About"|
|1996||Captain Simian & the Space Monkeys||Gor-illa/Gor||Voice, 26 episodes|
|1996||Spider-Man||War Machine||Voice, 2 episodes|
|1996-1998||Sparks||Alonzo Sparks||40 episodes|
|1996-1998||In the House||Mediator / Sampson Stanton||2 episodes|
|1997||Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child||Father||Voice, episode: "The Golden Goose"|
|1997||Extreme Ghostbusters||Danny||Voice, episode: "Dry Spell"|
|1998||The Advanced Guard||Fred||Television film|
|1998||You Lucky Dog||Calvin Bridges||Television film|
|1998||The Wild Thornberrys||Gorilla||Voice, episode: "Valley Girls"|
|1999||Vengeance Unlimited||Judge Christopher Washington||Episode: "Legalese"|
|1999||Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?||Malcolm Avalon||2 episodes|
|1999||For Your Love||Rev. Hicks||Episode: "Mother Load"|
|1999||Family Law||Episode: "Damages"|
|1999-2000||Pepper Ann||Mr. Clapper||3 episodes|
|2000||Bull||Prof. Gilbert Granville||Episode: "What the Past Will Bring"|
|2000||One World||William Richard||Episode: "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner"|
|2000||CSI: Crime Scene Investigation||Preston Cash||Episode: "Unfriendly Skies"|
|2000||Two Guys and a Girl||Judge||Episode: "Rescue Me"|
|2000-2002||Dharma & Greg||Walter||2 episodes|
|2001||Epoch||Dr. Solomon Holt||Television film|
|2001||The Jamie Foxx Show||Reverend||Episode: "Always and Forever"|
|2001||Strong Medicine||Harold Jenkins||Episode: "Wednesday Night Fever"|
|2001||The Legend of Tarzan||Chief Keewazi||Voice, 3 episodes|
|2001||The Proud Family||Crandall Smythe||Voice, episode: "Spelling Bee"|
|2001-2002||The Nightmare Room||R.L. Stine||12 episodes|
|2001−2003||Soul Food||Walter Carter||4 episodes|
|2002||Philly||Dean Mark Clivner||Episode: "Here Comes the Judge"|
|2002||Judging Amy||Mr. Ruff||Episode: "Damage Control"|
|2002||Nancy Drew||Prof. Shifflin||Television film|
|2002-2003||The Division||Charles Haysbert||9 episodes|
|2003||Reba||Judge Samuel Bennett||Episode: "The Feud"|
|2003||Crossing Jordan||Dr. Erkhart||Episode: "Conspiracy"|
|2003||Street Smarts||Contestant||Episode: "May 16, 2003"|
|2003||All About the Andersons||Roscoe||Episode: "Flo's Dream"|
|2003-2004||All of Us||Lucas||2 episodes|
|2004||That '70s Show||Officer Kennedy||3 episodes|
|2004||Charmed||Zola||Episode: "A Call to Arms"|
|2004||NYPD Blue||Steve Pines||Episode: "Great Balls or Ire"|
|2004||Girlfriends||Dr. Couch||Episode: "Maybe Baby"|
|2004||That's So Raven||Presto Jones||Episode: "Opportunity Shocks"|
|2005-2007||The Closer||Dr. Crippen||11 episodes|
|2005||My Wife and Kids||Prof. Floyd F. Tillman||Episode: "Study Buddy"|
|2005||Star Trek: Enterprise||General K'Vagh||2 episodes|
|2005||Living With Fran||Mr. Bryant||Episode: "Learning with Fran"|
|2006||Take 3||Judge Sanderson||Episode: "Study Buddy"|
|2008||Eli Stone||Mason Andrews||Episode: "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go"|
|2011||The Problem Solverz||Go-Seeki Ninja Master / Ninja Master Head||Voice, episode: "Hide and Seek Ninjaz"|
|2012||Grey's Anatomy||Sam||Episode: "One Step Too Far"|
|2012||The Young and the Restless||Judge Roy Daley||2 episodes|
|2013||Call Me Crazy: A Five Film||Dr. Beckett||Television film|
|2013||Hunt for the Labyrinth Killer||Judge Parsons||Television film|
|2013||Go, Bolivia, Go!||Commissioner Morocco||Television film|
|2015||Da Jammies||Covington||Voice, episode: "Cello" |
|1989||Splash Mountain||Br'er Frog, Br'er Bear|
|1995||Disney's Animated Storybook: The Lion King||Narrator|
|2006||Biker Mice from Mars||Cataclysm / Cat Commando|
|2011||Kinect Disneyland Adventures||Br'er Bear|
- Keepnews, Peter (January 1, 2014). "James Avery, 'Fresh Prince' Actor, Dies at 68". The New York Times. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
- "James Avery, Uncle on "Fresh Prince," Dead at 68". NBC Los Angeles. January 1, 2014. Retrieved January 1, 2014.
- Messer, Lesley (January 1, 2014). "'Fresh Prince' Star James Avery Died at 68". ABC News. Retrieved January 1, 2014.
- Griffin, Jade (February 13, 2014). "Memorial Tribute to Late Actor and UC San Diego Alumnus James Avery Set for March 1". UC San Diego News Center. Retrieved March 7, 2014.
- "James Avery Biography". TV Guide. Retrieved August 27, 2023.
- Heigl, Alex (January 2, 2014). "Watch James Avery Talk About Voicing Shredder in the Ninja Turtles Cartoon". Archived from the original on November 17, 2015. Retrieved November 14, 2015.
- "James Avery". Archived from the original on March 24, 2019. Retrieved January 18, 2016.
- "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air - James Avery as Philip Banks". TBS. Archived from the original on January 2, 2014. Retrieved January 1, 2014.
- "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: 1990-1996". People.com. June 26, 2000. Retrieved May 11, 2020.
- Vena, Jocelyn. "'Fresh Prince' Co-Stars Remember James Avery". MTV News. Retrieved August 15, 2020.
- "Uncle Phil: Fresh Prince Star James Avery Dies". Sky News. January 1, 2014. Retrieved January 1, 2014.
- France, Lisa Respers (January 1, 2014). "James Avery, star of 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,' dies at 68". CNN. Retrieved January 1, 2014.
- Dillon, Nancy; Margaret Eby; Zayda Rivera (January 1, 2014). "James Avery, Fresh Prince of Bel Air star, dies at 65". Daily News. Retrieved January 1, 2014.
- "Actor James Avery Passes Away". Anime News Network. January 3, 2014. Retrieved January 3, 2020.
- "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air actor James Avery dies - BBC News". BBC.com. January 1, 2014. Retrieved October 11, 2020.
- "Will Smith on James Avery Death: 'Every Young Man Needs an Uncle'". Hollywood Reporter. January 6, 2014. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
- "James Avery, star of 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,' dies at 68". CNN.com. January 2014.
- "[Photos] 'Fresh Prince' Cast Reunite To Say Final Goodbyes To James Avery (Uncle Phil) | xoNECOLE". March 30, 2017. Archived from the original on March 30, 2017.
- Gonzalez, Sandra (April 30, 2020). ""The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" cast gets emotional watching Uncle Phil's best moments". Cnn.com. Retrieved May 11, 2020.
- Carras, Christi (May 1, 2020). "Will Smith wipes tears while honoring James Avery during 'Fresh Prince' reunion". Detroitnews.com. Retrieved May 11, 2020.
- VanHoose, Benjamin (April 30, 2020). "Will Smith Reunites with Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Cast: 'You Guys Are My Second Family'". People.com. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
- "Bennett's Creek Park to hold first 'Averyfest". suffolknewsherald.com. Retrieved August 4, 2017.
- "Averyfest celebrates Suffolk-born actor's career, life". Suffolk News-Herald. Retrieved August 4, 2017.
- "James Avery (visual voices guide)". Behind The Voice Actors.