Mr. T was a mathematics student in college, then a soldier in the military, then a bouncer, then a bodyguard, then a wrestler, then an actor, then a reality show host. He even had his own breakfast cereal brand called Mr. T. I mean, is there anything this guy can’t do?
Best known for his role as the A-Team’s Sgt. Bosco B.A. Baracus, Mr. T went on to inspire hundreds of ’80s kids worldwide. And for good reason! His life story has a lot to teach us about overcoming hardships and believing in yourself, despite having all the odds against you.
Here are some memorable stories about this legend’s life, and a glimpse at where he is today.
What Is Mr. T’s Real Name?
Mr. T was born Laurence Tureaud on May 15th, 1952, in Chicago, Illinois. The youngest son of a family of twelve, he has four sisters and seven brothers. That’s a seriously big family, and Mr. T knew he wanted to stand out and make his mark from the very beginning.
His childhood was pretty rough. He lived in a three-room apartment in one of Chicago’s housing projects known as the Robert Taylor Homes. It was a poorly constructed building, and the area was full of sketchy people.
He Witnessed Horrific Crimes
Growing up in a tough, crime-ridden neighborhood, Mr. T witnessed many crimes. He was just a small boy then, but he was exposed to horrific crimes including burglary, shootings, murder and even rapes.
Luckily, Mr. T’s parents made sure to keep their kids on track. He would later credit his mom as the reason he became the man he is. He said that her unconditional love really made him feel safe and confident that he could make something out of himself.
He Won a Football Scholarship
Mr. T was always naturally athletic. In high school, he won a football scholarship to Prairie View A&M University, where he applied for a degree in mathematics. He was a promising student with a bright career. But unfortunately, it didn’t work out very well.
In spite of his best efforts, Mr. T was eventually expelled from the university after just one year. After leaving the school, he started a job as a gym teacher for a government program. It was there that he discovered he truly loved helping children feel empowered.
He Served in the Military
Following his expulsion, Mr. T felt, more than ever, that he wanted to make something positive out of his life, and, as a result, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and was assigned to the Military Police Corps.
This strict environment posed a challenge at first, but Mr. T wanted to prove to himself that he could function in a structured program. He grew more disciplined and developed values that would help him later on in life.
He Called Himself Mr. T to Gain Respect
Mr. T became Mr. T because he believed that his nickname would be more presentable than Laurence. He wanted the crowd’s respect, and apart from kicking butt and being an awesome role model, he wanted a good name to match his persona.
“I think about my father being called ‘boy’, my uncle being called ‘boy’, my brother, coming back from Vietnam and being called ‘boy’,” he once explained, saying that he wondered what a Black man had to do to be called something other than boy. “So, when I was 18 years old, when I was old enough to fight and die for my country, old enough to drink, old enough to vote, I said I was old enough to be called a man. I self-ordained myself ‘Mr. T’ so the first word out of everybody’s mouth is ‘mister.’”
A Bodyguard for the Rich and Famous
Mr. T has always had a build perfectly suited for a job as a bodyguard. And it didn’t take long for celebrities around town to notice it. He was employed by a lot of high-profile stars, including the one and only Michael Jackson.
Other than Jackson, Mr. T also guarded the likes of Diana Ross, Steve McQueen, and even Muhammad Ali (as if he needed one!). His stint as a bodyguard lasted for a whole decade, in which he got closer and closer to influential A-listers.
Spotted by Sylvester Stallone
Apart from being a formidable bodyguard, Mr. T took on other security jobs. He worked as a bouncer around town, and appeared once on NBC’s show, “America’s Toughest Bouncers.” There, on camera, he was spotted by none other than Sylvester Stallone.
One look at Mr. T and Sylvester Stallone simply knew that this crazy fellow had a lot of potential. He offered him a role in Rocky III, and Mr. T was so good at playing the part that his small bit in the film completely skyrocketed his career.
Where Did “I Pity the Fool” Come From?
Mr. T landed his big-screen debut role in 1982, where he starred as Rocky Balboa’s competitor, Clubber Lang, in Sylvester Stallone’s film Rocky III. And he uttered his iconic catchphrase, “Pity the Fool,” in the scene where his character is being interviewed about his upcoming boxing match.
Lang is asked if he hates Rocky. His answer: “No, I don’t hate Balboa, but I pity the fool. And I would destroy any man who tries to take what I got.” Spoiler alert – Rocky absolutely ruined Lang in that match. Nevertheless, “I pity the fool” stuck and launched more than three decades of funny jokes.
Mr. T Became a Spokesman for Bling
Following 2005’s natural disaster, Hurricane Katrina, Mr. T gave up his impressive collection of gold chains because “of the situation we’re in now after Katrina, I told myself, ‘No, T, you can never wear your gold again.’ It’s an insult to God.”
However, in 2010, the value of gold skyrocketed, and Mr. T jumped on the shiny wagon. He signed up to promote a gold-buying company called Gold Promise. He later said that gold was near and dear to his heart and that’s when he bought his very first chain back in 1977. It cost him $129.
He Battled Cancer
Mr. T has fought some serious battles over the years, but his fiercest enemy by far was cancer. In 1995, a small tumor was found on his ear, and the doctors diagnosed him with T-cell lymphoma, a rare type of cancer.
“Can you imagine that?” he told Coping with Cancer magazine, “Cancer with my name on it – personalized cancer.” Mr. T underwent five treatments and, luckily, the cancer dissolved. But 11 months later, it returned.
Fame Couldn’t Save Him
When Mr. T’s cancer returned, he started to panic. “My fame couldn’t save me!” he once said, “My gold, my money couldn’t stop cancer from appearing on my body. If they can’t save me, then I don’t need them.”
But Mr. T isn’t one to give up. In fact, he pities the fool who decides to give up. “We all gonna die eventually from something or other, but don’t be a wimp. Put up a good fight,” he was quoted saying. In 2001, Mr. T announced he was in remission.
He Turned Down a Cameo in the A-Team Movie
When The A-Team was released in 2010, Mr. T wasn’t in it. Instead, Quinton Jackson played the role of B.A. Baracus. Mr. T later explained why. He told talk show host Wendy Williams that when he was approached to do a cameo in the movie, he chuckled in the producer’s face.
“You must be out of your mind,” he recalled thinking; “I’ve done cameos in other movies, but to ask me to come and take seconds? Mr. T takes seconds? I pity the fool.” The actor also condemned the amount of violence in the movie.
He Upset His Neighbors by Cutting Down Trees
Mr. T once lived in a home in the suburbs of Chicago near Lake Forest. In the late ’80s, due to his allergies, Mr. T decided to cut down approximately 100 oak trees around his property. Now, Lake Forest is dubbed the “Tree City,” meaning that the trees are truly sacred there.
Clearly, not caring much about it, Mr. T took a chainsaw and went about his business. His careless actions upset his neighbors. One of them took to The New York Times and said, “He’s smiling and laughing about all this… He thinks it’s a joke.” His neighbors called the incident “The Lake Forest Chain Saw Massacre.”
A WWE Hall of Famer
In the ’80s, Mr. T fought alongside Hulk Hogan in several WrestleMania matches. In 2009, Mr. T was offered to be enshrined into the WWE’s Hall of Fame, but he turned it down because he was upset that Pete Rose was inducted.
“This guy can’t even get into his own Hall of Fame,” Mr. T said. “They put him in, and he only did one WrestleMania, and he didn’t even wrestle.” Ultimately, he made peace with WWE because he ended up accepting the offer a few years later.
Mr. T and Rowdy’s Three Decade Feud
In 1985, during WWE’s first WrestleMania, Mr. T and Hulk Hogan fought against Piper and Paul Orndorff. Hogan and Mr. T won the match, and their victory led to some hostility between them, in particular, between Piper and Mr. T.
They battled against each other again in WrestleMania 2, and, once again, Mr. T came out victorious. Pipe later revealed that the bad blood between the two started before WrestleMania, during a press conference when Piper accidentally brushed against T, and T responded quite arrogantly.
They Eventually Made Up
After more than 30 years of bad blood, Mr. T and Piper ended things peacefully. In 2014, during WWE’s Hall of Fame ceremony, both wrestlers were present in the crowd with their sons. Apparently, having their kids next to them softened their hearts.
They ran into each other on the red carpet and shared a moment. They shook hands and inquired about each other’s family life. Piper was impressed that Mr. T’s son had just received his MA, and Mr. T said he believed Piper raised his son right.
A Reality Show Star
Following his success in Rocky III, Mr. T signed up for a reality show called “I Pity the Fool.” It featured Mr. T traveling from town to town, handing out advice, solving issues, and lecturing people on how to live a better life.
The show only lasted for six episodes. But that wasn’t the end for Mr. T. He signed on to another reality show called “I Pity the Tool” which centered around a home improvement team. They knocked down walls and renovated places for families who lived in old, worn-out homes.
A Petition Was Formed to Have Him in The Expendables 4
Mr. T was absent from The Expendables franchise, something his fans believed was an absolute outrage. A petition was posted on Facebook titled, “1,000,000 Strong for Mr. T in The Expendables 4,” and it was made so Hollywood would finally cast him in the next Expendables movie.
The fan page’s mission read: “Did you sleep on your Bruce Willis sheets when you were a kid? Did you eat Sylvester Stallone cereal? Did you play with an Arnold Schwarzenegger action figure or was it of a character he played? Mr. T had his own cartoon. Mr. T should be cast in the next Expendables movie.”
He’s a Good Sport
Mr. T knows how to make fun of himself, a quality we should all strive for! In the early ’00s, Mr. T went apple picking with Conan O’Brien at an orchard in New York, and Mr. T, playing on his angry persona, began yelling at the poor fruit.
He yelled at the apples so they would off the trees. He also pretended to cut a tree (more violence and anger), and ultimately, they drive off with a ton of apples inside Mr. T’s luxurious Bentley. Everything was obviously scripted and part of the segment, but it’s nice that he didn’t mind coming off as angry. As long as it makes people laugh, he’s all for it!
His Massive TV Break
Capitalizing on his success after Rocky III, Mr. T went on to accept offers from other producers. His massive TV breakthrough role came when he was cast as Sgt. Bosco B.A. Baracus in the show, The A-Team.
The show was a total hit, with millions of people worldwide tuning in every week to see the shenanigans of the A-Team. Mr. T’s character, Baracus, was known as the tough guy of the group (but he also had a soft spot). A gentle giant wearing signature gold chains!
A Genuis Mechanic
Mr. T’s character on The A Team, B.A. Baracus had two famous character traits. For one, he known as a genius mechanic, a guy who could fix anything and everything. A man who could turn any kind of scrap into some crazy engine fit for a tank-like vehicle.
His other well-known characteristic was being a tough cookie who wasn’t afraid of anything. I mean, anything but flying. When it came to getting on a plane, B.A. Baracus turned into a frightened kitty kat. ” “I ain’t gettin’ on no plane,” he often said.
What Does B.A. Stand For?
Do any of you know what B.A. stood for in the show? Barnaby Archibald? Barnaby Alexander maybe? No and no. B.A. actually stood for a personality trait, not a high-class character name (although Mr. T’s character was indeed very high class).
B.A. stood for – drum roll – Bad Attitude! However, real fans of the show will attest that despite B.A. Baracus’ reputation as a tough, angry fellow, he was actually incredibly kindhearted. His attitude wasn’t bad at all.
George Peppard Wasn’t Mr. T’s Biggest Fan
As it turns out, American actor George Peppard wasn’t Mr. T’s biggest fan. He believed that Mr. T wasn’t a “serious actor.” He hadn’t trained or gone to any proper drama school. He didn’t have to go through dozens of auditions before getting his big on-screen break.
Peppard, on the other hand, studied his craft well and took a whole lot of acting classes before breaking into the industry. He was quoted saying that Mr. T got hired just because of his tough-guy look.
Not Just a Tough Guy
Mr. T ended up proving George Peppard wrong. The A Team star showed people that he was a bit more versatile than what they gave him credit for. Instead of landing more beefy tough guy roles, he landed gigs on comedies, including the American sitcom, Silver Spoons.
While it’s true that his job on the show was to play a bodyguard, Mr. T still managed to fit in perfectly well with the rest of the comedy crew. He also starred in another classic sitcom, Diff’rent Strokes! Granted, he played his character from The A-Team, but, still, let’s give the guy some credit…
A Successful Cartoon Show
Mr. T ended up having his very own TV show. But it was completely different than what you would expect from a man like Mr. T. He played himself, but this time, as a cartoon! His animated series, Mr. T, saw him running a gym.
Other than being a gym owner and trainer, Mr. T’s cartoon also solved some mysteries along the way. A true action hero! The show was actually a hit and ended up running for 30 episodes.
He Was Earning a Lot
At the height of Mr. T’s popularity, the star was reportedly raking in $80,000 per week for his role in The A-Team. Other than that, he was doing a ton of gigs and landing numerous appearances on talk shows.
He was earning up to $15,000 from his other projects at the time. Mr. T sure knew how to capitalize on his success. He did so wisely. Really, we pity the fools who can’t see how hard he has worked to get it!
A Member of the WWF
Mr. T wrestled in the WWF before it rebranded to the WWE. A true OG. He was a popular wrestler and was loved and praised for his confident and bold attitude. He entered the world of wrestling in 1985 and became Hulk Hogan’s tag-team partner.
Hogan was quoted saying that Mr. T was an incredible wrestler and that he absolutely saved the day in their first WrestleMania match together. In light of the success, he found in Rocky III, Mr. T became even more popular in the wrestling scene.
He Had a Cereal Named After Him
Mr. T wasn’t just an actor, a bodyguard, a wrestler, and a bouncer. He was his own brand. He got his own reality show, his own animated show, and even his own breakfast cereal! The sugary box even had free presents, including things like branded stickers.
The sweetened cereal, made of corn and oats, was manufactured by Quaker Oats. The cereal pieces were shaped like the letter T. As for its flavor, many compared it to the taste of Cap’n Crunch.
Get Some Nuts
Mr. T eventually kicked back at one point, disappearing from the spotlight for a few years. Some people even started worrying, believing that he would never grace our screens again. But then, out of the blue, he was back!
He reappeared in a string of advertisements for Snickers (the chocolate bar). The catchy slogan for the commercials was “Get some nuts!” The ad did pretty well, because, come on, it had Mr. T, chocolate, and peanuts. What more do you need?
The Ad Was Banned in Some Countries
Surprisingly, the snickers ad didn’t sit very well with some countries. But it wasn’t Mr. T that was the problem, it was the slogan. Apparently, “Get some nuts” can come off as a bit…uh… offensive. We believe you can guess why.
It was thought to be somewhat offensive to the gay community. So, to keep things politically correct, certain places decided to ban it. It was meant to be fun and amusing, but to some, it was rude and inconsiderate.
Mr. T Cleared the Air
Following the move of several countries to ban the ad, Mr. T felt that he simply had to get things off his chest. Primarily, the fact that he had in no way intended on harming or offending anyone.
The A-Team star made it very clear that the countries that had decided to ban him got it all wrong. And that he would never take part in any form of project pushing hatred or mockery. We have to say, we’re on his side here!
Mr. T Has Found Religion
Mr. T was raised a Christian but being in the spotlight steered him away from his faith. He was busy, busy tackling challenges and working hard to get to the top. Nowadays, though, he claims he has found religion once again.
Mr. T admits that faith is now a huge part of his life; it’s what helps him in times of need, and, above all, it is what gives meaning to his life. It’s great to hear he’s doing well and keeping positive! It’s nice to see a famous star so grounded.
In 2017, He Danced With the Stars
In 2017, Mr. T starred on the hit TV show Dancing With the Stars, where he boogied and shimmied across the dancefloor. No one expected to see him on such a flamboyant show, yet he did it! Even though he wasn’t the best dancer, he was still the most entertaining one.
Mr. T stunned the crowd by showing a gentler side to his established “tough guy” demeanor. He was even surprisingly graceful at times! Most importantly, he had a ton of fun. He wasn’t afraid to get out of his comfort show and show the world something else.
The Origins of Mr. T’s Unusual Hairstyle
Mr. T’s crazy hairdo truly fit his wild persona. The mohawk added to his toughness and inspired his fans to chop it all off and do the same. The idea came from a picture Mr. T saw while reading an issue of National Geographic.
Flipping through the pages, he came across a photo of an African warrior who belonged to the Mandinka ethnic group. Standing proud with beads around his neck and a sharp spear in his hand, the warrior impressed Mr. T, who decided to copy his haircut. “Wow, let me bring respect to them,” he explained his decision in an interview with AllHipHop.com.
His Gold Chains Came From Customers at Nightclubs
Originally, Mr. T began collecting gold necklaces during his days as a bouncer. Many customers would often leave behind their jewelry and never come back to take it. Therefore, Mr. T thought, why not? And he put them to good use.
As for the people who did come back to reclaim their gold chains, Mr. T had to politely return them (and explain why he was wearing them in the first place). We wouldn’t mind if he had worn one of ours; in fact, it would be an honor to share our gold with him!
His Life as a Bouncer
For Mr. T, life as a bouncer was full of action. People often go crazy in clubs. Alcohol, drugs, all that jazz. Therefore, the star had to make sure he was on top of his game every night. There was no slacking off at work.
Mr. T would break up fights and deal with dozens of drug dealers. He was involved in over 200 fights in his bouncing days and was sued multiple times. “I have been in and out of the courts as a result of my beating up somebody,” he once mentioned.
He Was Paid to Assassinate Someone
Don’t worry, he refused. But during his bodyguarding days, the A-Team star was actually offered to gun someone down for good. Mr. T even tried warning the victim, but it was too late. He was offered $75,000 for the hazardous job.
Other than being offered to kill people, Mr. T was also hired to locate missing people, such as runaway teens. He was also hired to collect payment by force from stubborn and sneaky clients who tried to get away from their duties.
He Chopped Down 70 Trees in the Military
What is it with Mr. T and trees? Other than upsetting his neighbors by axing trees around his house, Mr. T also chopped down about 70 trees in a little over three hours during his time in the military. Why? It was an order from his commander.
In 1976, at a training camp in Wisconsin, the sergeant of his platoon punished him and gave an instruction to chop down some trees. However, he didn’t state how many. Mr. T stunned everyone by axing 70. He stopped only after a shocked major ordered him to.
The Top Trainee of the Cycle
Mr. T might have been expelled from Prairie View A&M University, and, yes, he might have been a rowdy student who deserved it. But in the army, he was truly appreciated and praised (even though he was ordered to chop down a bunch of trees).
In 1975, he got a letter of recommendation from his drill sergeant who praised him, saying he was one of the best soldiers in the platoon. Not only that but he was also elected, out of 6,000 troops, as the “Top Trainee of the Cycle.”
What His Daughter Has to Say
Other than being an inspirational figure to many fans, Mr. T is also an inspirational figure to a special little someone – his daughter, Erica Clark. Growing up with Mr. T as her dad, Erica saw some crazy, crazy stuff as a kid, including Hulk Hogan flying across their Thanksgiving dinner table.
“I always thought it was funny,” she said. “My dad had on gold chains and everyone else’s dad had on a suit…Of course, I know it wasn’t normal.” Today, after years of working as a special education teacher, Clark has moved on to do standup comedy and is now doing shows all across the country.
Where Is Mr. T Now?
Mr. T spent the last two years, much like the rest of us, close to home. For Mr. T, home is a lavish mansion in Los Angeles. He’s been uploading pictures to his social media accounts, keeping his fans updated on the latest happenings in his life.
Apart from his house in L.A., Mr. T also resides in Chicago, as well as in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He’s a proud father of three children whom he shares custody over with his former wife, Phyllis Clark.