Billy Jack made it more popular to be American Indian in the 1970s
THOUSAND OAKS, CALIFORNIA —Tom Laughlin, best known to Indian country as Billy Jack, passed away on Thursday, December 12, 2013 near his home in Thousand Oaks, California. He was 82.
Billy Jack, the fictional character of the movie with the same name, was half-Indian who had been a Green Beret in Vietnam War veteran, who performed martial arts, heroic feats, while wearing black shirts, blue jeans and a black hat lined with Indian beads. Seemingly, there was no feat too difficult or risky for Billy Jack.
In all Laughlin starred in and directed four films—over the course of a decade—in a series about the iconic character Billy Jack. They 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.
While Laughlin was not American Indian, he gained his appreciation for American Indians while spending time in South Dakota, where he attended the University of South Dakota.
He wrote the original screenplay for “Billy Jack” in 1954 after seeing the racial animosity towards and mistreatment of American Indians in Delores’ hometown, Winner, South Dakota.
Laughlin is survived by his wife of 60 years, Delores Taylor, his three children: daughters, Teresa Laughlin and Christina Harrington; son, Frank Laughlin, and five grandchildren.
At his family’s request, in lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Friends of Pine Ridge in Tom Laughlin’s honor or the Alzheimer’s Foundation.
No memorial services have been announced at press time.
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