James Avery Dies at 68: Why Uncle Phil Was One of Our Favorite TV Dads

January 2, 2014  |  

While the rest of us were saying goodbye to 2013, the family and friends of actor James Avery was saying goodbye to someone they truly loved. Best known for playing for Uncle Phil on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”, Avery, 68, passed away from complications due to open heart surgery. And though “Fresh Prince” went off the air a long time ago, we’re still so sad to lose on of our favorite TV dads. I liked him because he was a lot like my own dad: tough but loving and without the unrealistic sitcom nonsense where no one gets in trouble for what they did.

Philip Banks, a judge, was as tough in his courtroom as he was with his kids. He pushed his kids to do their best, and the same went for his nephew Will. It takes a big man to take in someone else’s child and a great man to treat that child no differently than he treats his own children. Even when Will wanted to take the easy way out, Uncle Phil came down hard on him because he knew he could do better. Will didn’t have his heart set on Princeton like Carlton, but Phil didn’t think that was any reason for Will not to have a bright future.

But as tough as he was, he had his soft spots, especially when it came to his daughters. Hillary was the Spoiled One, using Daddy’s money to fill her closet with all the latest designers. Was she shallow and materialistic? Yeah, but Daddy couldn’t tell his sweetheart no. My dad never opened his wallet in quite the same way, but I will always be a daddy’s girl–though more in the mode of Ashley. Ashley, the youngest of the Banks children, had a hard time trying to figure out the whole boy thing. to Like a lot of dads, Uncle Phil wasn’t excited when his youngest daughter started dating, but we saw he just wanted her to be taken care of. That’s a message all of us can relate to.

“The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” was a show that crossed a lot of bounds, but it was such a big deal for black audiences. Like “The Cosby Show”, it showed us a black family that looked familiar to a lot of people, but “Fresh Prince” also had one foot in the hood. And in his portrayal of Uncle Phil, Avery knew how important his work was. The role was a departure from his classical training but it was no less an important than any heavy dramatic pieces. Joseph Marcell, who played the Banks’ family butler Geoffrey on the show, told a href=”http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/01/showbiz/celebrity-news-gossip/james-avery-obit/?hpt=hp_zite1_featured”>CNN, “What he has done for television, for African-Americans on television is unsurpassable.” Thank you, Uncle Phil, and rest in peace, James Avery.

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