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Tom Laughlin, who starred and produced the Billy Jack series, has passed away at the age of 82.
Born Thomas Robert Laughlin, in Millwaukee, August 10, 1931, Wisconsin, he attended Washington State High School where Gene Wilder was a classmate. Mr. Laughlin later attended the University of Minnesota where he was a running back for the football team and would tried out for the now defunct, Chicago Cardinals in the NFL. Sadly he didnâ€™t make the team.
With a professional football career out, he decided to focus on acting and travelled to California, appearing in several television shows and a 1958 film directed by William Wellman entitled Lafayette Escadrille along with unknowns David Jansen and Clint Eastwood.
Mr. Laughlin left his acting career behind temporarily to start the prestigious Montessori School for Children in Santa Monica, California, which became nationwide.
Then in 1967, with money Mr. Laughlin raised, he wrote, produced, directed and starred as Billy Jack in Born Losers that American International Pictures picked up. It became a minor hit about an ex-Vietnam vet, martial artist taking on an outlaw biker gang.
With the success of Born Losers, Mr. Laughlin reprised his role in Billy Jack with his wife, Delores Taylor co-starring along with hapkido martial artist, Master Bong Soo Han, who double for Mr. Laughlin in several scenes and who was also his teacher.
The cost of the film was $800,000. It grossed over $65 million dollars worldwide and the legend of Billy Jack was born garnering two other sequels and an unproduced third.
Before his death, Mr. Laughlin wrote several books on Jungian philosophy, was involved in political and prevention of domestic abuse causes, developing theories of cancer, and ran for President of the United States three times.
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