Delores Taylor, co-star of ‘Billy Jack’ films, dies at 85

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Delores Taylor, who co-starred with her husband Tom Laughlin in his productions of the “Billy Jack” series of films, has died in Southern California, her daughter said Monday. She was 85.

Teresa Laughlin told The Associated Press that Taylor died March 23 of natural causes at the Motion Picture and Television Fund Home near Los Angeles. She said her mother had suffered from dementia.

Taylor was born in 1932 in Winner, South Dakota. She grew up near the Rosebud Indian Reservation, an experience which she drew from when creating the namesake character of the “Billy Jack” films in the 1970s.

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Taylor starred in three of the four “Billy Jack” films in which she played a teacher whose progressive school is defended by Billy Jack — a half-white, half-Native American Vietnam veteran who had come to hate war. The films became counterculture favorites.

Billy Jack was first seen in the 1968 biker movie “Born Losers,” but became widely known after “Billy Jack,” the second of four films Laughlin made about him (only three made it to theaters).

“Billy Jack” was released in 1971 after a long struggle by Laughlin to gain control of the low-budget, self-financed movie, a model for guerrilla filmmaking. The film became a surprise hit and the theme song, “One Tin Soldier,” was a hit single for the rock group Coven.

Taylor was nominated for a Golden Globe for New Star of the Year in 1972.

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