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For the American football coach, see Tom Lester (American football).
Tom Lester
Born Thomas William Lester
(1938-09-23) September 23, 1938 (age 76)
Laurel, Mississippi, U.S.
Occupation Actor and Evangelist
Religion Christian
Signature TomLester.png

Thomas William "Tom" Lester (born September 23, 1938) is an American actor and evangelist. He is best known for his role as Oliver Wendell Douglas's (played by Eddie Albert) farmhand Eb Dawson on the television series Green Acres, and he appeared in two feature animal films Gordy and Benji.

Early life[edit]

Lester was born in Laurel, Mississippi, the first of two children (both sons) of Pat Lester (1913-2009), a bookkeeper with Gulf Oil, and Mary Sue (Thornton) Lester (1914-2009).[1] A young boy in 1948, Tom became a Born-again Christian and became involved in the Baptist church.[2] At that time, he said he thought the Lord's plan for his life would deliver him to Hollywood, California, to embark on an acting career. He discussed his plans and his dream of becoming an actor with his parents.[3]

After he graduated from Laurel High School, he attended the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Mississippi, where he received a B.S. degree in Chemistry and Biology. He also briefly attended graduate school at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, but acting became his main interest.

After college, he taught school in Purcell, Oklahoma, but he left for Los Angeles, California. In his early 20s, he attended the First Baptist Church of Beverly Hills, California.[4]

"Eb Dawson" role[edit]

After moving to Hollywood, Lester met actress Lurene Tuttle, who became his friend and acting coach. She suggested he begin work in the Little Theater, which he did, acting in showcases at the North Hollywood Playhouse.[5]

In the early 1960s, Lester performed in one of those showcase plays with CBS producer Paul Henning's daughter Linda Kaye (Betty Jo of Petticoat Junction), and Lester soon found himself auditioning for the role of "Eb Dawson" that audiences will best remember on "Green Acres". Lester beat out 400 other young actors to play the character after a screen test.[6]

His recurring role was eventually a regular character, thanks to the character's popularity and the show's popularity, which combined made Lester a household name. Green Acres was the 11th-rated show in its debut season of 1965-66, according to the Nielsen ratings, climbed to #6 in 1966-67, and was #16 and #19, respectively, the following two seasons.[7] And because the Green Acres characters also appeared in episodes of CBS series Petticoat Junction and The Beverly Hillbillies, Lester as Eb Dawson also occasionally appeared on those shows.

Even during the show's height of popularity, Dawson lived simply in a small apartment atop a garage in the San Fernando Valley. During the show's summer hiatus each year, he would travel the country and speak at churches, youth rallies and revival meetings and at one time was part of the Rev. Billy Graham's organization.[8]

Lester appeared in nearly every Green Acres episode between 1965–71, with the exception of the first half in the 1967–68 season when he suffered mononucleosis. So the story line was that he had eloped and was on his honeymoon. After six seasons, Green Acres was cancelled in 1971 as part of CBS's "rural purge".[9]

After Green Acres[edit]

After Green Acres, Lester was forever typecast as Eb Dawson. In 1990, Lester reunited with Albert and Gabor to reprise his Eb Dawson role in Return to Green Acres.[10]

He returned to his parents' home in Laurel, Mississippi, but continued to do an occasional movie or TV role. During the mid 1970s to early 1980s, his roles included guest spots in Little House on the Prairie, Marcus Welby, M.D., Knight Rider, and Love, American Style,

In 1991 he played the adult Pete Maravich in the film about the future basketball hall-of-famer's youth, The Pistol: The Birth of a Legend.

Lester is a farmer and for many years has been a Christian speaker who travels the nation, preaching a message of faith and obedience.[11][12] He still participates in autograph shows and fan forums, often dressed as Eb Dawson.[13][14] In 1997, Lester was the recipient of Mississippi's "Wildlife Farmer of the Year" award.[15]

Lester was married for the first and only time in July 2007 at the age of 68. He and his wife Kaylie live on the 250-acre family farm in Vossburg, Mississippi.[16]

With the death of Mary Grace Canfield on February 15, 2014, Lester is the only surviving regular cast member of Green Acres.[17]

Friendship with Eddie Albert[edit]

At age 26, he traveled from Mississippi to Hollywood to audition for a co-starring role on Green Acres, opposite iconic movie actor Eddie Albert, who was referred to by the young actor as his 'surrogate father' off the set. The two had a wonderful on- and off-screen chemistry for six years, and became very popular. It should also be noted that Albert also taught Lester how to eat right, as well. The two also guest-starred on The Beverly Hillbillies, which featured Albert's good friend, Buddy Ebsen, for one episode. When Green Acres was finally canceled in 1971, both Albert and Lester remained close friends and continued to stay in touch until Albert's death in 2005.[18]

In 1990, Lester along with Albert and Eva Gabor, would be reunited for one last time to star in Return to Green Acres,. Both Albert and Lester attended Gabor's funeral in 1995. A decade later, on May 26, 2005, Albert died of complications from Alzheimer's disease. Lester was the only Green Acres star not to attend Albert's funeral.[19]

References[edit]

External links[edit]


Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Lester — Please support Wikipedia.
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87 news items

Craven Herald

Craven Herald
Tue, 26 May 2015 09:52:30 -0700

In Division Three, Tom Lester marked his debut after moving from Pool by helping Menston past Hall Park. Callum Postle hit 46 for Park but, with Charlie Parker and Josh Dracup each picking up four wickets, the visitors were restricted to 146. Lester ...

wivb.com

wivb.com
Sat, 09 May 2015 16:27:30 -0700

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- Tom Lester and Zoey Tuppen never liked the idea of a mortgage, but they wanted to be homeowners. They opted for Buffalo's Urban Homestead Program. It's been around for decades, but is becoming more popular. “We kind of read ...

Artvoice

Artvoice
Wed, 06 May 2015 20:56:15 -0700

“Financial independence,” is what homesteader Zoey Tuppen, 25, said attracted she and her partner, Tom Lester, 26, to the program. “We really liked the idea of actually owning our home as opposed to the bank owning our home and us paying them off ...

Buffalo Sun Times

Buffalo Sun Times
Tue, 12 May 2015 03:44:51 -0700

The Urban Homestead Program in Buffalo makes decisions like buying a house as easy as deciding if you want to go large on your McChicken sandwich meal (and that's always a yes). For one Buffalo couple, buying their house (before moving costs) meant ...

Staff Newsletter

Staff Newsletter
Thu, 21 May 2015 00:52:30 -0700

This was a rare effort for Emerald at this stage as the Penkridge back three of Rob Haynes, James Mallaband and Tom Lester dealt with everything thrown at them with a minimum of fuss. The result was sealed on 83 minutes when Wynn won the ball on the ...

Montana Standard

Montana Standard
Mon, 27 Apr 2015 08:53:30 -0700

Survivors include her loving husband of 68 years, Bill Lester and her children and good friends, Andy Lester and Paulette MacIntyre, Dan Lester, Bob Lester and Becky Tammietti, Dave and Lorie Lester, Mary and Frank Walsh, Tom Lester, Carol and Rick ...
 
Montana Standard
Tue, 13 Aug 2013 02:03:39 -0700

TOM LESTER, far left, a member of the 1956 graduating class at Butte's Boys' Central High School, excelled at many sports as a prep athlete. In this file photo, Lester is receiving an award for his achievements on the Central track and field team ...

Bradford Telegraph and Argus

Bradford Telegraph and Argus
Thu, 13 Feb 2014 03:03:45 -0800

Pool cricketer Tom Lester, who also plays friendlies for the Hawks, has been selected to play for the British Army on their two-week tour of St Lucia at the end of the month. The 17-year-old, whose mum Sally lives at Apperley Bridge and dad 'Ted' lives ...
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