September 23, 1938
Jackson, Mississippi, United States
If ever there was an actor almost solely identified for playing one role, it would be Tom Lester, whose lean and lanky farmhand Eb Dawson was used on three separate 1960s television sitcoms and unsurprisingly popped up in a 1990 reunion special for his most successful series. The Mississippi native became a Born Again Christian as a child and was convinced that God wanted him to become a famous actor. After earning a B.A. in Chemistry and Biology at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Lester spent one year teaching in Oklahoma before heading out to Hollywood. Fortune was on his side when he appeared in a play alongside Linda Kaye, the daughter of CBS producer Paul Henning, who was looking to fill the role of Eb Dawson on his new series, "Green Acres." Lester wound up having the best chemistry with series star Eddie Albert and beat out 400 other actors. The Dawson character went from a semi-recurring role to a series regular and wound up in crossover episodes of "The Beverly Hillbillies" and alongside Kaye in "Petticoat Junction." After "Green Acres" was canceled in 1971, Lester was a typecasting victim and spent the next two decades landing only occasional roles in episodes of "Little House on the Prairie" and "Santa Barbara." Lester later transitioned into evangelism and motivational speaking, his most notable latter-day roles coming in the 1991 biopic "Pistol: The Birth of a Legend" and 1995's "Gordy."