Tom Lester, best known for his role as the smart-aleck farmhand Eb Dawson on the ’60s sitcom “Green Acres,” died Monday in Nashville, Tenn. from complications related to Parkinson’s disease. Lester, who was 81, was the last surviving actor of the original “Green Acres” cast.
Born Sep. 23, 1938 in Jackson, Miss., Lester grew up working on his grandfather’s farm. He earned a degree in chemistry at the University of Mississippi and taught in Oklahoma for a few years before making the move to Hollywood. Lester landed his role in “Green Acres” in 1965, beating out the competition because he was the only actor who could actually milk a cow.
He went on to star in “Green Acres” until the show’s end in 1971, also appearing in the two related series “Petticoat Junction” and “Beverly Hillbillies.” Lester and co-star Eddie Albert, who played lawyer Oliver Wendell Douglas on the show, formed a tight-knit friendship and he often referred to Albert as his “surrogate father.”
After “Green Acres,” Lester appeared in movies such as “Benji” in 1974 and “Gordy” in 1994, as well as popular TV series like “Little House on the Prairie” and “Knight Rider.” Lester traveled the country to speak to religious gatherings and youth groups about Christianity.
Lester split his time between Mississippi and Hollywood as he owned a 250-acre timber farm which won him a “Wildlife Farmer of the Year” award in 1997. He died in Nashville, Tenn. at the home of his fiancée and caregiver Jackie Peters.
He is survived by Peters and his brother.