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Monday, December 16, 2013

Billy Jack Goes to Heaven: RIP, Tom Laughlin

Tom Laughlin, best known as the star of the highly successful Billy Jack films, was so much more than that. Wikipedia tells us he was: an American actor, director, screenwriter, author, educator and political activist..... In the early 1960s, Laughlin put his film career on hiatus to start a Montessori preschool in Santa Monica, California; it became the largest school of its kind in the United States. In his later years, he sought the office of President of the United States in 1992, 2004, and 2008. He also was involved in psychology and domestic abuse counseling, writing several books on Jungian psychology and developing theories on the causes of cancer.

Sad and ironically, he developed inoperable tongue cancer in 2001.

His daughter, Teresa Laughlin, told the Los Angeles Times, "[O]nce he found Jungian psychology, it supplanted everything else."

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. Based on... "Mr Smith Goes to Washington," it condemned the nuclear energy industry and was suppressed by politicians with something to lose, Laughlin suggested to reporters. "However corrupt you think Washington and Congress are, you're not even close," he said in a 2007 Sacramento TV interview, according to the LA Times.

Billy Jack remains an iconic movie figure, a karate-chopping pacifist reluctantly but stoically forced into battle by racists and other violent troublemakers.

In recent years, Laughlin suffered a series of strokes and acquired an auto-immunity disorder known as Celiac Disease. He died of complications from pneumonia and is survived by his daughter and wife (since 1954), Delores Taylor. He was 82.

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