Actor Tom Laughlin, best known for writing, directing, producing and starring in the Billy Jack films, died Thursday at his home in Thousand Oaks, Calif., according to a post on the Billy Jack website. He was 82.
Born in Minneapolis, Minn., Laughlin went on to play college football at the University of Wisconsin and Marquette University before deciding to pursue acting. He made his TV debut in the series Climax! in 1955, and went on to star in movies including Tea and Sympathy andThe Delinquents.
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In 1955, he and his wife, actress Delores Taylor, founded a Montessori preschool in California. Laughlin briefly left show business to run the school in the early 1960s, but it went bankrupt in 1965.
The character of Billy Jack first appeared in 1967's The Born Losers, which Laughlin wrote and directed as T.C. Frank. Four Billy Jack films were made, and Laughlin repeatedly talked about trying to make a fifth as recently as a few years ago, amid health problems including tongue cancer and a series of strokes.
Laughlin ran for president in 1992, 2004 and 2008. He also wrote several books on psychology and Jungian psychological theory.
Laughlin is survived by his wife of 60 years, as well as three children and five grandchildren.