The actor, who played the dad on Will Smith's hit sitcom, passed away on Tuesday

By K.c. Blumm
Updated January 01, 2014 02:05 PM

James Avery, best known for playing Will Smith‘s Uncle Phil on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, died on Tuesday night. He was 68.

“I’m deeply saddened to say that James Avery has passed away,” Alfonso Ribeiro, who played his son, Carlton, on the hit sitcom, Tweeted Wednesday. “He was a second father to me. I will miss him greatly.”

The New Jersey-born star had recently undergone surgery for an undisclosed illness and passed away at an L.A. hospital, TMZ reports.

In addition to playing Smith’s beloved uncle, Avery guest-starred on That ’70s Show, CSI, The Closer and Grey’s Anatomy.

Tatiana Ali, who played Avery’s daughter on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, also Tweeted about her TV dad’s passing, saying, “James was my teacher my protector & the most magnificent actor. We’re feeling his loss very deeply. He’ll always be a part of me.”

And while Will Smith has yet to release a statement, his musical partner, DJ Jazzy Jeff, who also appeared on the show, Tweeted, “RIP James Avery…Thank U for the talks, travel tips and jazz cd’s. A great Friend and Even Better Person…You will be Missed!! #FPOB”