Billy Jack: Tom Laughlin's 'Half-Breed' Action Hero

By Emily Morenz
Tom Laughlin (1931 - 2013) as Billy Jack in the 1971 film 'Billy Jack', which he also wrote and directed. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)

Billy Jack, the movie protagonist created by Tom Laughlin, was a cowboy war hero who uses extreme violence to promote peace. Though the character, which Laughlin played himself, debuted in the 1967 biker film Born Losers, he became a phenomenon in the 1971 western drama Billy Jack. Jam-packed with the most absurd of fight scenes, Tom Laughlin’s film series was immensely popular -- Billy Jack was the #1 draw at the box-office in 1971, and The Trial Of Billy Jack was the third-biggest film of 1974. By standing up for what was right, the underdog Billy Jack became a role model for baby boomers who were inspired to defend mistreated people in a prejudice society.