Will Smith has finally opened up about the death of his TV dad James Avery ... saying the guy who played Uncle Phil on "Fresh Prince" made him a more "respectable human being."
Smith just posted a tribute to his co-star on Facebook ... writing, "Some of my greatest lessons in Acting, Living and being a respectable human being came through James Avery."
He added, "Every young man needs an Uncle Phil. Rest in Peace."
Smith also included a photo with Avery and other "Prince" cast members taken the last time they all got together.
We broke the story ... Avery died Dec. 31 after experiencing complications from open heart surgery. He was 68.
Alfonso Ribeiro Remembers James Avery ... And All that Jazz
1/3/2014 6:04 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
The faux biological son of Uncle Phil on "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" has fond memories of their time together ... the most enduring of which involved down south music.
Alfonso Ribeiro was leaving Mr. Chow when we asked him about the death of James Avery, and he was locked and loaded when we asked about what he remembers most.
As you know ... James died New Year's Eve of complications from heart surgery. Judging from Alfonso, there's no doubt he'll be missed ... and remembered.
'Fresh Prince' Dad James Avery Dies Dead At 68
1/1/2014 10:11 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
James Avery -- the beloved dad on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" -- has died at age 68 ... TMZ has learned.
Sources close to the actor tell TMZ he died in a Glendale, CA hospital last night. Avery had undergone open heart surgery and took a turn for the worse late yesterday.
And we're told ... his wife, Barbara, had been at his bedside but left for a short period of time and when she came back ... she learned he had just died.
Alfonso Ribeiro -- who played Avery's son on "Fresh Prince" -- just posted a message on his Facebook page.
Avery starred in dozens of TV shows through the years -- shows like "Grey's Anatomy," "The Closer," "L.A. Law," and "The Jeffersons." This past year, he appeared in three TV movies -- most recently, "Go, Bolivia, Go!" -- but didn't appear to have other projects in the works.
Avery reunited with most of his "Fresh Prince" cast -- including Will Smith -- two years ago at a charity event.