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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 77)
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 Eb Dawson, farmhand to Oliver Wendell Douglas (played by Eddie Albert) 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, he became a born-again Christian and got 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 a play 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 on "Green Acres". Lester beat out 400 other young actors to play the character after a screen test.[6]

His recurring role soon became a regular character, thanks to both the character's and the show's popularity, which 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] Because the Green Acres characters also appeared in episodes of two other 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, Lester 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. The show's explanation for Eb's absence ws 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 he reunited with Albert and Gabor to reprise his 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] Lester is the last surviving star from the series, with the exception of surviving cast members from Petticoat Junction who had supporting roles.

References[edit]

External links[edit]


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

Lebanon Democrat

Lebanon Democrat
Fri, 05 Feb 2016 22:15:21 -0800

Funeral services for Mr. Anderson will be held Monday, Feb. 8, 2016 at 11 a.m. in the Partlow Funeral Chapel with Brother Joe Widick officiating. Visitation will be Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016 from 1-4 p.m. at Partlow Funeral Chapel and again Monday one hour ...

La Jolla Light

La Jolla Light
Fri, 12 Feb 2016 14:18:45 -0800

Not only with our dog, but with some of our friends' dogs,” Tom Lester said. “She loves dogs, and probably cats, too, and they love her instantly and she has a way with them. I can't say enough good things about her.” Pending the occasional Saturday ...

WJHL

Southwest Virginia Today
Tue, 09 Feb 2016 07:11:15 -0800

Several speakers asked about free lunch for every student. Woodard said providing that would cost $1.3 million and the county does not have those kinds of resources. Tom Lester spoke in defense of Ringstaff, saying what was posted on social media was ...

Herald & Review

Herald & Review
Sun, 31 Jan 2016 00:17:25 -0800

They are the parents of Dawnita (Tom) Lester, Darletta (Mark) McCollum, Daylene (Jeff) Sullivan and Evett Martin, all of Decatur; Jack (Heather) Vance Jr. of Mount Zion, Virginia (Martin) Maldanado of Norris City, Pam Roney of Wylie, Texas, and Barbara ...
 
Freeport Journal-Standard
Thu, 21 Jan 2016 16:45:00 -0800

Rockford-based attorney Tom Lester, who is representing FHN, said he expects Judge David Jeffrey will rule on the motion Friday afternoon. Meanwhile, Cleary's attorney has argued that the noncompete clause is too restrictive and that the Stephenson ...

Montana Standard

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 ...

Paris Post Intelligencer

Paris Post Intelligencer
Mon, 13 Feb 2012 10:43:19 -0800

Tom Lester, aka Eb Dawson from the television comedy “Green Acres,” jokes with the members of New Harmony Baptist Church's Joy Group during the group's banquet Saturday night. Saturday was declared Tom Lester Day by Henry County Mayor Brent ...

Great Falls Tribune

Great Falls Tribune
Thu, 31 Dec 2015 09:03:45 -0800

Name: Mary Lester Bowe. Age: 33. Hometown: Great Falls. Family: Husband Jude Bowe and his two children, father and business partner, Dennis Lester, mother, Terri Lester, and two brothers, Denny and Tom Lester and their families. What I do at work: I ...
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