Tom Laughlin, The Man Behind Billy Jack


Tom Laughlin’s memorial was filled with compassion, love and admiration for a man who’s life was well lived. Known as “Billy Jack” for the success of this iconic character, Tom Laughlin wrote, directed, produced and starred in four Billy Jack films. He even battled Warner Brothers to buy back the distribution rights after they poorly released and marketed the first “Billy Jack” film and won!


Laughlin rereleased “Billy Jack” which became the most successful, yet controversial independent film of all time. The film also introduced Hapkido a form of martial arts to the American audiences and was the first to cast native Americans and their beliefs onscreen.


Tom Laughlin was a kind and generous man who lived by his own philosophy of following your passion. Something he instilled in his three children and something all of his friends and family knew about him.


He was passionate about so many things and competitive enough to go after so many goals. Some he achieved with utter greatness and some were a failure, but most were profoundly touching the lives of so many. People from difference races, backgrounds, and beliefs were touched by Tom Laughlin.


To many people Tom was their hero, role model and guide for them to follow. There was nothing too big that couldn’t be achieved. There was nothing to fear and there was no one that was unimportant that didn’t have a voice. He made sure everyone knew they were seen and heard at least by him. Even though I only met him a couple of times within the past year, I didn’t know this man and so wished that I had been given that privilege. To hear what a difference he made in so many people’s lives was indeed inspirational.


Tom was also an educator and political activist who campaigned for president in 2004 and 2008. Tom battled illnesses such as cancer and strokes and ultimately died of pneumonia on December 12, 2013. He is survived by his wife of 59 years and co-star of “Billy Jack” Delores Taylor and their three children, Frank, Teresa and Christina.


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