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Billy Jack Actor and Creator Tom Laughlin Dies at 82 from Pneumonia Complications

Billy Jack Actor Dies

Filmmaker, Tom Laughlin who starred in and co-produced the four films of the 1960s and ‘70s Billy Jack, a troubled Vietnam veteran who quietly promotes a message of peace, died Thursday at Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, California at 82 years old.

Daughter, Teresa Laughlin told the Associated Press the cause of death was complications from pneumonia.

His films included “The Born Losers,” a 1967 biker movie; “Billy Jack” in 1971; and “The Trial of Billy Jack” in 1974. A fourth film, “Billy Jack Goes to Washington,” had only a limited release after its production in 1977.

Laughlin's Billy Jack character was a heroic Native American ex-Army Green Beret who used his karate skills to fight racism and oppression. The most famous line is likely "I ... just ... go ... BERSERK!"

The film was criticized by those who saw its central theme as a message that violence was an answer to injustice, CNN reports.

Billy Jack became a counterculture favorite and the theme song, "One Tin Soldier," was a hit single for the rock group Coven.

Tom Laughlin was born in 1931 and grew up in Milwaukee. He played football for the University of South Dakota and Marquette University. He did not graduate but poured himself into the drama program, where he met Delores Taylor, a fellow student he married in 1954. Taylor co-produced and starred with Laughlin in the “Billy Jack” films. He decided he wanted to become an actor after seeing a stage production of "A Streetcar Named Desire."

"He was profoundly affected by the poverty he saw on the Indian reservations near the University of South Dakota," Teresa Laughlin said. "I think the seeds of the Billy Jack character started there."

After leaving Hollywood, Laughlin became interested in politics and ran for president as both a Republican and Democrat three times. He also founded a Montessori school in California. He was an opponent of nuclear energy and a longtime advocate for Native Americans and bonded with another actor-activist, Marlon Brando.

A statement posted on BillyJack.com says Laughlin is survived by his wife of 60 years, Delores (who co-starred in his Billy Jack films), three children and five grandchildren.

Billy Jack Classic Clip

Billy, cool as ice, facing an army, tells Posner how it's going to be. And there's not a damn thing you're going to be able to do about it.

Tribute to Billy Jack

Filmmaker, Tom Laughlin who starred in and co-produced the four films of the 1960s and ‘70s Billy Jack, a troubled Vietnam veteran who quietly promotes a message of peace, died Thursday at Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, California at 82 years old.


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