WATERTOWN, S.D. (AP) – The college roommate of actor Tom Laughlin remembers him as more gentle than his on-screen character in the “Billy Jack” film.
Laughlin played football at the University of South Dakota and went on to produce the movie released in 1971 after a long struggle to gain control of the low-budget, self-financed movie.
He died Thursday in California at age 82 of complications from pneumonia.
Longtime Watertown radio broadcaster Don Egert was Laughlin’s roommate at USD and remained lifelong friends. He tells KXLG-FM that Laughlin was kind and considerate – different than the character he portrayed who defends a progressive school against racists in a conservative Western community.
Inspiration for the film came from Laughlin seeing the treatment of some Native Americans in his wife Delores Taylor’s hometown of Winner.
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