James LaRue Avery (November 27, 1945 – December 31, 2013) was an American actor, comedian, voice over artist and poet. A prolific television actor, he is best remembered for his portrayal of patriarch Philip Banks in the sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. His voice acting work was mostly in animated series.

Early life

Avery was born in Suffolk, Virginia on November 27, 1945 and raised in Atlantic City, New Jersey.[3] He served in the Vietnam War as a member of the U.S. Navy from 1968–1969, after graduating high school.[4] Later on, he moved to San Diego, California, where he began to write poetry and TV scripts for PBS.[4]

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.[17]


Avery began his career in the 1980s, with appearances in television series such as Amen, FM and L.A. Law. In the 1990s, he achieved prominence for his role as Phillip Banks (Uncle Phil) in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, a character that was ranked #34 in TV Guide's "50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time." He played the lead role of Alonzo Sparks in the 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 original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series and James Rhodes/War Machine in the 1990s Iron Man series.[5] He also provided the voice of Junkyard Dog in Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling (1985-86), 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.[6]

Personal life

In 1988, Avery married Barbara.[7] He had no children of his own, but was a stepfather to his wife's son, Kevin Waters.


On December 31, 2013, Avery died aged 68, from complications following open heart surgery at Glendale Memorial Medical Center.[4][8][9] He was survived by his mother, Florence Avery (1924–2016), as well as his wife and stepson.[10]

Janet Hubert, who portrayed his original on-screen wife Vivian on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, said after his death, "RIP James, all the world is a stage, and we are all merely players in this production called LIFE."[11] Will Smith commented on Avery's death by 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."[12] Joseph Marcell called Avery a "gentle giant."[9]

The song "No Role Modelz" from 2014 Forest Hills Drive by J. Cole pays tribute to Avery. It contains the lyric "First things first rest in peace Uncle Phil. For real, you the only father that I ever knew."

Avery's remains were later cremated and scattered near the Pacific Ocean.


1980The Blues BrothersMan DancingUncredited role
1980The Stunt ManUncredited role
1985FletchDetective #2
1985Appointment With FearConnors
1986Fist of the North StarFangVoice role (1991 Streamline Pictures dub)
1986The Eleventh CommandmentLarry
19868 Million Ways to DieDeputy D.A.
1986The Ladies ClubJoe
1986ExtremitiesSecurity Guard

- 1987 "Timestalkers" Blacksmith

1987Deadly Daphne's RevengeDet. Wood
1987Three for the RoadClarence
1988License to DriveLes' DMV Examiner
1991The Linguini IncidentPhil
1991Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of TimeLt. Coberly
1991ShoutMidnight RiderVoice role
1993Little Miss MillionsAgent Noah Hollander
1995The Brady Bunch MovieMr. Steve Yeager
1997Spirit LostDr. Glidden
199812 BucksSlow
1998The Prince of EgyptAdditional VoicesVoice role
1999After Romeo
1999Out in FiftyCappy
2000Dancing in SeptemberMr. Warner
2001Chasing SunsetsMr. Burken
2001HoneybeeLarry Dukes
2001Dr. Dolittle 2Eldon
2002WheelmenVice President
2004Raise Your VoiceMr. Gantry
2004Hair ShowSeymour Gold
2005Lethal EvictionGus
2005The Third WishGeorge
2005A Christmas WishSaintShort film
2006Restraining OrderJudge Sanderson
2006Think TankUncle John
2006DanikaTeddy Johnson
2007Who's Your Caddy?Caddy Mack
2007Divine InterventionRev. Matthews
2008His Good WillMr. CooperShort film
2008Leave with ItDr. LeonShort film
2009Let the Game BeginMark Hanley
2009Steppin: The MovieThe Chancellor
2010The GrindModelo Snipes
2012ValedictionEdwardShort film
2014Wish I Was HereAudition actor #2Avery's last performance in a film


1983Antony and CleopatraMardianTV movie
1983Tales of the Gold MonkeyGabrielEpisode: "God Save the Queen"
1983NewhartConstruction GuyEpisode: "Heaven Knows Mr. Utley"
1983The JeffersonsColemanEpisode: "Father Christmas"
1983, 1984Simon & SimonHuey, Roy2 episodes
1984Hill Street BluesTolliver3 episodes
1984LegmenNo NeckEpisode: "I Shall Be Re-Released"
1984Hardcastle and McCormickEpisode: "Scared Stiff"
1984Going BananasHank
1984WebsterJudgeEpisode: "Webster Long (2)"
1984Fist of the North StarFang (voice)
1984The Dukes of HazzardCharlieEpisode: "Cool Hands, Luke & Bo"
1984, 1985BrothersBubba Dean2 episodes
1985Street HawkCouncilman WatersPilot
1985St. ElsewhereMental PatientEpisode: "Give the Boy a Hand"
1985Cagney & LaceyEpisode: "Who Says It's Fair" (1)
1985KicksStanleyTV movie
1985SpaceJean-MarieCBS miniseries
1985Scarecrow and Mrs. KingNabutiEpisode: "Murder Between Friends"
1985Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' WrestlingJunkyard Dog (voice)
1985George Burns Comedy WeekEpisode: "The Assignment"
1985The A-TeamEpisode: "The Heart of Rock n' Roll"
1985MoonlightingReuben KingEpisode: "Twas the Episode Before Christmas"
1986Karate KommandosAdditional voices
1986Amazing StoriesChief HansenEpisode: "Hell Toupee"
1986Rambo and the Forces of FreedomTurbo (voice)
1986Samaritan: The Mitch Snyder MovieHank DudneyTV movie
1986CondorCasTV movie
1986Sunday DriveOliverTV movie
1986−1989The Real GhostbustersKillerwatt / Judge / Additional voices3 episodes
1986−1988, 1989AmenArnie Samples / Rev. Crawford5 episodes
1987Jake's M.O.Abel BarnesUnsold pilot/TV movie
1987TimestalkersBlacksmithTV movie
1987Jake and the FatmanEpisode: Fatal Attraction
1987, 1989ValerieJudge N. Keller / Mr. Erdman2 episodes
1987−1993Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesShredder (voice)103 episodes
1988DallasJudge FowlerEpisode: "Malice in Dallas"
1988Beauty and the BeastWinslow
1988227Jo-JoEpisode: "My Aching Back"
1988Heart and SoulHarlan SinclairPilot
1988−1992L.A. LawJudge Michael Conover9 episodes
1989Full Exposure: The Sex Tapes ScandalEarlTV movie
1989Roe vs. WadeTV movie
1989FMQuentin LamoreauxTV Series
1989A Different WorldThe Pin PunisherEpisode: "To Have and Have Not"
1989Turn Back the ClockPhysical TherapistTV movie
1990Night CourtJudge HopkinsEpisode: "Wedding Bell Blues" (1)
1990Capital NewsPilot
1990To My DaughterTV movie
1990−1996The Fresh Prince of Bel-AirPhilip Banks148 episodes
1991Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesShredder (voice)TV movie
1991The Legend of Prince ValiantSir Bryant (voice)9 episodes
1992RocDale HammersEpisode: "The Car Accident from Heaven"
1993Without Warning: Terror in the TowersFred FerbyTV movie
1993−1994American ExperienceCharles Hamilton Houston / Narrator2 episodes
1994Hart to Hart: Old Friends Never DieChess PlayerTV movie
1994A Friend to Die ForAgent GilwoodTV movie
1994AladdinHaroud Hazi Bin (voice)9 episodes
1994−1995Iron ManWar Machine (voice)7 episodes
1995ABC Weekend SpecialHeadman (voice)Episode: "Jirimpimbira – An African Folk Tale"
1995Murder OneJudge Nathaniel AlexanderEpisode: "Chapter Five"
1996GargoylesThe Shaman (voice)Episode: "Walk About"
1996Captain Simian & the Space MonkeysGor-illa/Gor (voice)26 episodes
1996Spider-ManWar Machine (voice)2 episodes
1996−1998SparksAlonzo Sparks40 episodes
1996, 1998In the HouseMediator / Sampson Stanton2 episodes
1997Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every ChildFather (voice)Episode: "The Golden Goose"
1997Extreme GhostbustersDanny (voice)Episode: "Dry Spell"
1998The Advanced GuardFredTV movie
1998You Lucky DogCalvin BridgesTV movie
1998The Wild ThornberrysGorilla (voice)Episode: "Valley Girls"
1999Vengeance UnlimitedJudge Christopher WashingtonEpisode: "Legalese"
1999King's PawnCecilPilot
1999Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?Malcolm Avalon2 episodes
1999For Your LoveRev. HicksEpisode: "Mother Load"
1999Family LawEpisode: "Damages"
1999, 2000Pepper AnnMr. Clapper3 episodes
2000BullProf. Gilbert GranvilleEpisode: "What the Past Will Bring"
2000One WorldWilliam RichardEpisode: "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner"
2000CSI: Crime Scene InvestigationPreston CashEpisode: "Unfriendly Skies"
2000Two Guys and a GirlJudgeEpisode: "Rescue Me"
2000, 2002Dharma & GregWalter2 episodes
2001EpochDr. Solomon HoltTV movie
2001The Jamie Foxx ShowReverendEpisode: "Always and Forever"
2001Strong MedicineHarold JenkinsEpisode: "Wednesday Night Fever"
2001The Legend of TarzanChief Keewazi (voice)3 episodes
2001The Proud FamilyCrandall Smythe (voice)Episode: "Spelling Bee"
2001-2002The Nightmare RoomR.L. Stine12 episodes
2001−2003Soul FoodWalter Carter4 episodes
2002PhillyDean Mark ClivnerEpisode: "Here Comes the Judge"
2002Judging AmyMr. RuffEpisode: "Damage Control"
2002Nancy DrewProf. ShifflinTV movie
2002−2003The DivisionCharles Haysbert9 episodes
2003RebaJudge Samuel BennettEpisode: "The Feud"
2003Crossing JordanDr. ErkhartEpisode: "Conspiracy"
2003Street SmartsContestantEpisode: "May 16, 2003"
2003All About the AndersonsRoscoeEpisode: "Flo's Dream"
2003−2004All of UsLucas2 episodes
2004That '70s ShowOfficer Kennedy3 episodes
2004CharmedZolaEpisode: "A Call to Arms"
2004NYPD BlueSteve PinesEpisode: "Great Balls or Ire"
2004GirlfriendsDr. CouchEpisode: "Maybe Baby"
2004That's So RavenPresto JonesEpisode: "Opportunity Shocks"
2005−2007The CloserDr. Crippen11 episodes
2005My Wife and KidsProfessor TillmanEpisode: "Study Buddy"
2005Star Trek: EnterpriseGeneral K'Vagh2 episodes
2005Living With FranMr. BryantEpisode: "Learning with Fran"
2006Take 3Judge SandersonEpisode: "Study Buddy"
2008Eli StoneMason AndrewsEpisode: "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go"
2009SherriRedmond4 episodes
2012Grey's AnatomySamEpisode: "One Step Too Far"
2012The Young and the RestlessJudge Roy Daley2 episodes
2013Call Me Crazy: A Five FilmDr. BeckettTelevision film; segment: "Eddie"
2013Hunt for the Labyrinth KillerJudge ParsonsTV movie

Video games

1989Splash MountainBr'er Frog
1995Animated Storybook: The Lion KingNarrator
2011Kinect Disneyland AdventuresBr'er Bear