James L. Avery, Sr. (born November 27, 1948 in Atlantic City, New Jersey), is a classically disciplined American TV actor. He is best known for his portrayal of the uncle/patriarch and attorney Philip Banks in the TV show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, whom Will Smith's character affectionately called "Uncle Phil." This character was ranked #34 in TV Guide's "50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time."
He joined the United States Navy shortly after high school graduation and served in the Vietnam War from 1968 to 1969. After he left the military, he relocated to San Diego, and began to write TV scripts and poetry for PBS. He won an Emmy Award for his production during his term at PBS and was awarded a scholarship to the University of California, San Diego. He earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Drama and Literature at the University. Avery also contributed in the comedy License to Drive starring Corey Haim and Corey Feldman.
In addition to his fame in sitcoms, he did voice acting for many animated series, most notably the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series (as the voice of The Shredder) and James Rhodes in the 1990s Iron Man series. He has been the primary host of Going Places, a popular travel and adventure series on PBS. He also guest starred in That 70's Show as Officer Kennedy. In 2000, he guest starred in the "Unfriendly Skies" episode of CSI as Preston Cash, a legally-blind witness to a murder who assists the CSI team with a near-flawless verbal account of what he heard onboard the flight. He currently plays a LA coroner on the TNT series "The Closer."
Avery's wife Barbara, whom he married in 1988, is the Dean of Students at Occidental College in California.