Tom Lester, the actor and evangelist known for his portrayal of farmhand Ed Dawson on the 1960s sitcom Green Acres, died Monday in Nashville from complications related to Parkinson’s disease. He was 81.
His brother, Michael Lester, confirmed the news on Facebook, writing that Lester died at the home of his fiancée and longtime caregiver, Jackie Peters. Close family and friends will attend a graveside service April 24 at Hickory Grove Cemetery in his native Laurel, Miss.
Lester’s brother wrote in tribute, “Death leaves a heartache, No one can heal. Love leaves a memory, No one can steal.”
Lester made his way to Hollywood after earning degrees in biology and chemistry from the University of Mississippi. He got his start in theater, before screen testing with CBS and beating 400 actors for the role of Ed Dawson. During Green Acres‘ run from 1965 to 1971, Lester appeared in nearly every episode, opposite Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor. He was the last surviving member of the show’s regular cast.
Lester was also a born-again Christian who, while not working, would travel the world preaching the gospel, something he continued to do after his busiest acting years.
Lester is survived by his brother, two great-nieces, one great-great niece, and one great-great-nephew.
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