Actor James Avery has sadly passed away at the age of 68 due to complications related to the open heart surgery he underwent. Avery, who played Uncle Phil in TV sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, died in a Glendale, CA hospital last night. His wife Barbara, who had been standing at his bedside, left for a short while and returned to learn her husband had just died, according to TMZ.

James Avery
James Avery, Star Of 'Fresh Prince,' Has Died Aged 68.

Though The Fresh Prince of Bel Air's Philip Banks was by far Avery's most notable role, the actor starred in dozens of television shows and films throughout the years, earning him deep respect within the Hollywood community.

A selection of the Virginia-born other television credits include Star Trek: Enterprise, The Legend Of Prince Valiant, LA Law, The Closer, That 70s Show and The Division. He appeared in movies such as Fletch, 8 Million Ways To Die and License To Drive. Aside from his towering acting career, Avery also served as a member of the US Navy in the Vietnam War between 1968 and 1969. He moved into showbusiness by writing poetry and TV scripts but soon became famous for his sitcom roles and versatility as a voice actor.

James Avery dies
Stars Have Flocked To Pay Tribute To The Late Actor.

The news of Avery's death has brought tributes from actors of all ages who knew or worked with the late star. James Franco tweeted "James Avery was a very funny and smart man. He did a cameo as a favor to me in WIWH and had the entire set rolling with laughter. RIP."

James' co-star Alfonso Ribeiro, who portrayed his on-screen son Carlton Banks in the show, lamented the loss of ''wonderful father figure'' via Facebook: ''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.''

Tatyana Ali, who played James' Fresh Prince daughter Ashley Banks, also paid her tribute to the deceased actor. She tweeted: ''James was my teacher my protector & the most magnificent actor. We're feeling his loss very deeply. He'll always be apart of me #JamesAvery [sic]''

Fresh Prince lead Will Smith is yet to publically comment on the loss but Smith's wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith, paid her own tribute: ''Happy New Year everyone! I was hoping to start the new year differently but we have lost yet another friend. James Avery who we all lovingly know as Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince has passed. Our condolences to aunt Florence (his mother), Miss Barbara (his wife) and all those who loved him.

'Rest in peace James," she finished.