Sad news on this New Year's morning. Beloved The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Patriarch James Avery has passed away at the age of 68. The veteran actor had checked into a Los Angeles hospital in December due to an undisclosed illness. His condition took a turn for the worse.

James Avery's television son Alfonso Ribeiro broke the news via his Twitter.

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The actor then left this message for fans.

"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."

James Avery was best known as Phillip Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, what is now considered a classic sitcom about a street smart Philadelphia teenager who goes to live with his aunt and uncle in California. He was a classically trained actor and a scholar who served time in Vietnam between the years 1968 and 1969 as part of the U.S. Navy.

After leaving the military, he went to work writing screenplays and poetry for PBS, where he would eventually take home an Emmy for his producing. Through his PBS work, he also won a scholarship to the University of California at San Diego from which he earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Drama and Literature.

Aside from his work on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, James Avery also lent his voice to various animated television series and feature films. He was also the host of the popular travel series Going Places which began airing in 1990.

He made his feature debut in The Blues Brothers, where he played one of Ray Charles' back-up dancers. While most of his work was on television, which includes appearing on nearly every classic of the 80s, he also appeared in the 1986 Jeff Bridges thriller 8 Million Ways to Die, the sequel Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time, the cult classic The Brady Bunch Movie, and the comedy Who's Your Caddy. This past year, he continued to work in a number of TV movies.

Here, we will always remember him best as Les' DMV Examiner in the 80s classic License to Drive. He is survived by his wife Barbara Lavery, who is seen in the above photo.