Actor Tom Lester, best known for his role in the 1960s sitcom Green Acres, died on Monday, April 20. He was 81 years old.
Us Weekly confirmed that Lester passed away from complications related to his Parkinson’s disease. According to his obituary, the Mississippi native was in Nashville at the home of his longtime caregiver and fiancée, Jackie Peters, at the time of his death.
Lester graduated from the University of Mississippi with a degree in chemistry and briefly pursued an advanced degree before picking up and moving to Los Angeles. Once in Hollywood, he began performing in small acting showcases, and by the early 1960s, had secured an audition for the role of Eb Dawson on Green Acres. The Gordy star beat out 400 other men for the role, apparently because he was the only one who actually knew how to milk a cow.
The beloved series originated as a comedy radio show in the 1950s and was later moved to CBS following the success of shows like The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction. After six seasons, Green Acres was taken off the air in 1971.
After Green Acres came to an end, Lester picked up a few roles here and there on popular shows, including Little House on the Prairie and Knight Rider. He eventually returned home to Mississippi to work on his family’s farm and later traveled the country as a Christian evangelist.
Reflecting on his acting career, Lester told American Profile in March 2007 that he had very little support from his loved ones when it came to chasing his dreams. “They said, ‘You are too tall, too skinny, too ugly, you have a Southern accent and you don’t look like Rock Hudson,'” he recalled at the time.
Despite the skeptics in his community, Lester had no regrets with the choices he made. “I had all the fun of being on Green Acres and laughing every day and having a great time,” he told the publication. “I had all the fun of traveling across the country and meeting wonderful people in churches. God gets all the credit, and I get all the fun. What a great deal!”
Lester is survived by Peters and his brother, Michael T. Lester.