Avery passed away at a Glendale, Calif., hospital while recovering from open heart surgery.
"The world has lost a truly special man. I am very saddened to say that James Avery has passed," Alfonso Ribeiro, who played Avery's son on the sitcom, posted on his Facebook. "Even though he played my father on TV, he was a wonderful father figure to me in life. He will be deeply missed."
Avery's most famous role came in 1990 when he was cast as patriarch Philip Banks, dubbed "Uncle Phil" by Will Smith, on NBC's The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The series ended in 1996. In 2011, Avery and his former costars reunited for a charity event.
Born in Virginia, Avery appeared on many shows throughout his career including That '70s Show, CSI, The Closer and most recently Grey's Anatomy. He also voiced The Shredder in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle series.
Avery is survived by his wife Barbara.