Where did the baby name Billyjack come from in the 1970s?

Poster for the movie "Billy Jack" (1971)
“Billy Jack”

The name Billyjack — a rather old-fashioned sounding double name — didn’t appear in the U.S. baby name data in the early 1900s, but in the 1970s:

  • 1974: 6 baby boys named Billyjack
  • 1973: 5 baby boys named Billyjack
  • 1972: 7 baby boys named Billyjack [debut]
  • 1971: unlisted
  • 1970: unlisted

Where did it come from?

The movie character Billy Jack, who had a cult following during the ’70s.

Here’s a fun description:

Billy Jack [is] a half-Cherokee Vietnam vet and former Green Beret who preaches peace, love and pacifism, but is all too ready to pull off his boots and protect progressive values by barefoot-kicking all the right(-wing) asses in American society, from biker gangs to racist Southerners to corrupt cops and politicians.

The character was played by Tom Laughlin in a series of four independent films: The Born Losers (1967), Billy Jack (1971), The Trial of Billy Jack (1974), and Billy Jack Goes to Washington (1977). The first three were unexpectedly successful, thanks largely to Tom’s innovative approach to distribution and marketing.

Notice how the name didn’t appear in the data until it was featured in the title of a film, though. In that second movie, Billy Jack helps Native American students on an Arizona reservation fight back against “small-town bigots.” (And, incidentally, the third movie includes Sacheen Littlefeather, who we’ve talked about before.)

What are your thoughts on the baby name Billyjack?

Sources: Tom Laughlin: Five films from the ‘Billy Jack’ star – LA Times, The Strange Saga of Billy Jack – Toronto International Film Festival

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