Tom Jester: ‘Call me when you’re serious.’

Tom Jester and Jenny Hines at an event at the Tennessee Theatre in 2012.

Ad man Tom Jester’s business card had a drawing of a jester’s hat on it. The slogan on the card? “Call me when you’re serious.” I always loved that.

Jester’s celebration of life was held last week and it was everything — and more than — we expected. It was hilarious and profane and moving. I think he would have loved it.

Jester passed away March 13 after a long, debilitating illness. His wife, Jenny Hines, put the affair together and perfectly captured the sometimes lovable, sometimes rascally nature of his zany and intense personality. Much of it was “R” rated.

Held at RiverView Family Farm — a working cattle operation — the wake was really a party with his friends from far and wide providing the music and the commentary that had us all laughing and crying. WBIR-TV veteran Steve Dean and Jester’s friend Mike Parish put together a video montage and Dean showed a vintage edition of the “The Heartland Series” featuring Jester.

Friend Becky Hancock sang a perfectly haunting rendition of “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen. Others sang songs — some written or co-written by Jester — which cannot be adequately described here without violating what is known in the business as “community standards.” Ha.

Jester was born in Fort Payne, Alabama. He graduated from the University of Alabama and got his master’s degree in journalism at the University of Tennessee. He fell in love with our region and never left. He was an advertising copywriter before starting his own agency. He wrote a book about the famous moonshiner Popcorn Sutton. He was 77 when he died.

His friend Betty Bean wrote a wonderful piece about him for KnoxTNToday here.

An excellent obituary that ran in the Knoxville News Sentinel can be read here.

The beautiful barn at RiverView Family Farm where the celebration of life was held last week.

Jester’s wife, Jenny Hines, right, and their dear friends, from left, Madge Cleveland, Ralph Cianelli and Rick Fox.

Newspaper columnists Sam Venable, left, and Victor Ashe. I loved the way their shirts matched. Venable is the longtime outdoors writer for the Knoxville News Sentinel. Ashe is former mayor of Knoxville and U.S. ambassador to Poland.

Vince and Melanie Staten. Jester was “Minister of Propaganda” for Vince when Vince was elected UT Homecoming Queen in 1974 wearing a bag over his head. Melanie worked in the Gerald Ford White House. (Jester had interesting friends.)

Mary Fran Darwin, left, and Beverly Linkous on the barn’s back patio.

It was a lovely venue.

Becky and the Four Skins. (I’m just going to leave that right there.)

Becky Hancock wowing with “Hallelujah.”

Tom’s friend of 55 years, John Payne, making remarks.

Tom and Jenny’s friend Rick Fox announcing a scholarship fund established in Tom’s name at the East Tennessee Foundation. Donations may be mailed to the Foundation at 520 W. Summit Hill Drive; Knoxville, TN 37902. Put “Tom Jester Scholarship” in the memo line.

Raising a toast to Tom.

Madge leading the toast.

I love this photo of Madge and Jenny. Madge had a big hand in the event.

Andrea White and Kyle Spence.

Jenny with John and Amy Gibson.

The food was excellent. Tom wanted the food to be barbecue.

Charles Manneschmidt and Amy Styles on the patio.

Alan Carmichael on the patio.

Tom and Jenny at “Southern Summer’s Night,” a benefit for the Hope Center held in 2016 at Middlebrook mansion.

Tom and Jenny with artists Tommie Rush and Richard Jolley at a Christmas party at The Middlebrook in 2010.

Tom and Susan Brown were both hosts at a Knox Heritage “Summer Supper” (also held at The Middlebrook) in 2013. She was passing canapes and he took drink orders!


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8 Responses to Tom Jester: ‘Call me when you’re serious.’

  1. MaryPat Tyree, on June 30th, 2022 at 2:52 pm said:

    Tom was truly a special human. He will be missed.

  2. Jenny Hines, on June 30th, 2022 at 4:25 pm said:

    I knew Tom pretty well. I’m pretty sure he’d love this. I know I certainly did.

  3. Gary Carr, on June 30th, 2022 at 4:49 pm said:

    I absolutely loved Tom’s short, but to the point, ad in the classifieds of AdWeek Magazine circa mid-1980’s;
    “Tom Jester writes his bells off.”

  4. Cynthia Moxley, on June 30th, 2022 at 6:57 pm said:

    Mary Pat: I agree. One of a kind, for sure!

    Jenny: Thanks, friend. That means the world to me.

    Gary: Haha! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Melinda Meador, on June 30th, 2022 at 9:42 pm said:

    I loved Tom to pieces. What a special person he was. I wish I could have been there for the send-off. I wiill always remember the twinkle in his eye.

  6. Eric Smith, on June 30th, 2022 at 9:46 pm said:

    Saw you and Alan there. It was a lovely celebration of life for Tom. He was one of a kind, and a good man to know. He and Jenny were much loved.

  7. Dorothy Smith, on July 4th, 2022 at 4:29 pm said:

    The world has lost one of the BEST creative minds ever!! Tom was brilliant when he wrote ads, jingles or TV commercials. You never knew what you would get when you hired him, but you knew it would be original and one of a kind. I will miss his humor. My condolences to Jenny and his family.

  8. Baker Moorefield, on July 4th, 2022 at 8:56 pm said:

    I worked with Tom at two different locations. He was always professional but brilliant and funny. I live in California now and lost track of him but I’ll always remember him fondly and with a smile on my face. And now, an ache in my heart.

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