Tom Laughlin, who created the 1970s anti-hero character Billy Jack, died at 82-years-old. The actor/director/screenwriter passed away Thursday, December 12 at Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, California.
According to his daughter Teresa Laughlin, the iconoclast and political activist had been in failing health for several years. She said that the cause of death was complications from pneumonia.
Laughlin starred in and directed four films about Billy Jack, a half-Indian Vietnam War veteran who uses his karate skills to fight racism and oppression. His unique promotion of the second film, "The Trial of Billy Jack", changed the way films are marketed.
Instead of being released in only a few cities before gradually hitting theaters across the country, "The Trial of Billy Jack" opened in cities nationwide on the same day and commercials were broadcast for it during the national news.
In the early 1960s, Laughlin founded a Montessori preschool in Santa Monica after he deemed the public schools unworthy of educating his children. As a protest against corrupt goverment, he ran for presidential office three times in 1992, 2004 and 2008.
He also became involved in psychology and domestic abuse counseling, and wrote several books on Jungian psychology. "He was an extraordinary Catholic for about five minutes," his daughter Teresa told LA Times, "but once he found Jungian psychology, it supplanted everything else."
In addition to Teresa, Laughlin is survived by his wife Delores, son Frank, daughter Christina Harrington and eight grandchildren.