Tom Laughlin was 82 years old when he died last Thursday. A hero of my childhood left this earthly domain. If he is heaven bound God help them. You have got to understand that when you look at the life of this man, you are not just looking at the creator of the film figure Billy Jack but a man very complex individual.
Okay, let's take a look at his titles, Actor, Director, Screenwriter, Author, Educator, and Political Activist.
First we must look at the first title the man had before all that, Husband. He married Delores Taylor in 1954. She would be by his side until the very end. They had a long life together. They had three children Frank, Teresa and Christina.
Tom's acting career would start in 1955 with a television series called 'Climax'. He would star in other TV series and also in big screen films such as 'Gidget', 'South Pacific', and 'The Battle of the Coral Sea'. He would become a Director and a Screenwriter.
He would write extensively on Jungian Psychology and alternative theories on the causes of Cancer. He would take time off from acting and the screen to start a Montessori school in the 1960's. The school would later become the largest of its kind in the United States.
It was in 1967, that he would truly begin to increase his fame with the character of Billy Jack in the film 'The Born Losers'. In 1971, the film 'Billy Jack' would land him in a category that most actors never see or feel - Legend. The United States was ripe for the hero Billy Jack. We were still involved in Vietnam and with Billy we had a former Vet from Nam that we could look up to. He was a character that stood for what some thought was right.
In 1974, 'The Trial of Billy Jack' solidified that the judicial system looked favorably upon the actions of Billy Jack and signed off on his actions. This made the Legend grow. In the 1977 film, 'Billy Jack Goes to Washington' some came to think that Billy was selling out to the man, meaning the Government. It was also a turning point for Tom Laughlin.
It would be about this time that he started his role as Political Activist. A role he would take to all the way to running for President of the United States in 1992, 2004, and 2008. He would not get any farther than just being a participant but he was there in the running. He was getting a message out.
On a personal note, I was ten when I saw 'Billy Jack' and I came away from the movie floored. Some of my beliefs to this day come from that movie. Tom Laughlin was a man who made us think and that is what a good educator does for his students. I was a teacher for some 14 years and I can say I learned from this man. I learned to be a better human being. When you went to a Tom Laughlin movie, at least from say 1970, you came away with a lesson in humanity. Pretty smart approach to teaching, make a film and place a hidden lesson within the plot. Billy Jack you have returned to the spirits. Tom Laughlin may your journey be a good one. Rest In Peace.