More sad news is coming in today as veteran actor Tom Lester has reportedly passed away. Known for his role on the '60s sitcom Green Acres, Lester was the final surviving regular cast member of the show. According to TMZ, Lester died of complications from Parkinson's Disease on Monday morning at the Nashville, Tennessee home of his fiancee and long-term caregiver, Jackie Peters. He was 81 years old.
A native of Laurel, Mississippi, Tom Lester was born on September 23, 1938. At ten years old, Lester became a born-again Christian, taking an early interest in religion which would forever remain a big part of the actor's life. According to Lester, he believed it was the "Lord's plan" for him to pursue an acting career in Hollywood, California. After graduating high school and earning a chemistry and biology B.S. degree at the University of Mississippi, Lester followed his dreams by leaving for Los Angeles to become a famous actor.
After doing some theater work, Lester caught a lucky break when he auditioned for the role of Eb Dawson on the classic comedy series Green Acres. In part due to his ability to milk a cow as someone who'd lived on a farm, Lester beat around 400 other actors auditioning for the part. Though the character was intended to be recurring, Lester was made a series regular based on the fast-growing popularity of Eb Dawson. Appearing in nearly every episode of the series, Lester also played Eb in guest appearances on The Beverly Hillbillies and The Petticoat Junction. In 1990, Lester would reprise the role once again for the TV reunion movie Return to Green Acres and often attended autograph signings dressed as the iconic television character.
Some of Lester's other notable television roles include parts in Little House on the Prairie, Knight Rider, Santa Barbara, and Marcus Welby, M.D. In movies, he appeared in the '80s slasher movie Intruder and the "Pistol" Pete Maravich biopic The Pistol: The Birth of a Legend, and Lester also voiced a radio DJ in the holiday movie Christmas Child As an actor, Lester's final role came in the 2014 comedy Campin' Buddies alongside Victoria Jackson and Don Most.
Though he was best known as Eb Dawson, Lester also appeared on the big screen in two iconic animal-themed family movies. He appeared as a villain in the 1974 dog movie Benji, and over two decades later, Lester would also have a large role in the pig movie Gordy in 1995. Also a farmer in real life, Lester was very well-experienced with animals as well, and he was even named Mississippi's Wildlife Farmer of the Year in 1997. A born-again Christian, Lester also later spent many years touring the United States as a Christian speaker.
Lester is survived by his brother, two great-nieces, one great-great niece, and one great-great nephew. Our thoughts go out to them along with Lester's friends and fans. As a one-of-a-kind actor who's spent so much time in one of television history's most memorable roles, we can be sure Lester will not be forgotten anytime soon. May he rest in peace. This news comes to us from TMZ.