TMZ reports that Avery was in an Glendale, Calif. hospital recovering from open heart surgery. His wife Barbara left his bedside for a short period of time and found him dead when she returned.
Alfonso Ribeiro -- who played Avery's son on Fresh Prince -- remembered his TV dad on social media after learning about his passing.
"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," the actor wrote on Facebook.
After starring on the NBC hit show from 1990 to 1996, Avery made appearances in TV shows like Grey's Anatomy, The Closer, L.A. Law, and The Jeffersons.