The showbiz name of Lawrence Tureaud (Tero), a former bodyguard who rose to fame as Sgt. B.A. Baracus, an AWOL Army mechanic on the adventure THE A-TEAM/NBC/1983-87.
Born on May 21, 1952 in Chicago, Mr. T. is the second of 12 children who grew up in a housing projects in Chicago. Standing 5′ 10′ tall, he attended Dunbar Vocational High School (where he wrestled under the name “Tero the Terror”), played college football, studied martial arts, and was three times city wrestling champion! He won a scholarship to Prairie View A&M University in Texas, but was thrown out after a year. Lawrence changed his name in 1970 to Laurence Tero.
According to his biography “Mr. T: The Man with the Gold” (1984), Tero changed his name to Mr. T in 1972 because he got tired of white people calling him “boy.” Now when he is addressed, the very first word out of a person’s mouth must be “Mister.” It’s a sign of respect. He never allows anyone to call him just T. My first name is Mister and my middle name is that period and my last name is T.” If he received any mail addressed to Lawrence Tureaud he writes “that person doesn’t live here anymore.”
Mr. T entered the world of pro wrestling battling with the likes of Hulk Hogan or Roddy Piper in 1995. Mr. T was also twice named America’s Toughest Bouncer and a body guard to Muhammad Ali and Leon Spinks. His calling card read: “Mr. T. Bodyguard extraordinaire. Next to God there is no better protector than I.”
In an interview with Playboy (September 1983) he said “I am the best bodyguard, because I’ll take a bullet, I’ll take a stab wound, I’ll take a hit upside the head; I’m like a Kamikaze pilot; The President got shot because his men relaxed.”
In 1995, Mr. T was diagnosed with cancer at age 43 (T-Cell Lymphoma of the skin) but after intensive therapy, he has apparently beat the disease in 2001.
Besides his trademark catchphrase “I pity the fool” from the movie Rocky III, Mr T. has three distinct characteristics: His hair, his jewelry and his shoes.
He adopted his hair style from an African Mandinka warrior that he once saw in a copy of National Geographic. He felt that adopting the style was a powerful statement about African origins. “My hairstyle is from Africa. It’s from the Mandinka Tribe, the Mandinka WARRIORS, a proud people…” (“Mr. T” bio page 6)
His second feature is his jewelry. He wear lots of gold. In his 1984 biography “Mr. T”, he explained, “the gold chains are a symbol that reminds me of my great African ancestors, who were brought over here as slaves with iron chains on their ankles, their wrists, their necks and sometimes around their waists. I turned my chains into gold…the fact I wear gold instead of iron chains is because I am still a slave, only my price tag is higher now. I am still bought and sold by the powers that be in society, white people, but this time they pay me on demand, millions and millions of dollars for my services.” Mr. T bought his first chain in 1976. Reportedly, his cluster of gold necklaces and assorted rings which takes about one hour to put on, are worth around $300,000. Mr. T also wears seven earrings because of the number’s religious significance.
According to a 1983 British fanzine account some nights Mr. T wears his jewelry to bed “to see how my ancestors, who were slaves, felt.” Of course, their jewelry was the heavy oppressive iron shackles of slavery.
The third thing that makes Mr. T unique are his shoes. Again in his 1984 biography her revealed, “My beat-up, run-over, taped-up raggedy and old combat boots used to belong to my father before they were handed down to me. I wear my father’s boots with pride because they help me not to forget where I come from and they tell me that I have to finished his journey. Now the reason I wear mismatched socks is because there are a lot of poor children who don’t have a pair of matched socks, and people laugh at them. So I wear mismatched socks so people can laugh at me, instead of poor kids. Plus I am making a fashion statement: just wear what you got and be thankful.”
Mr. T’s film acting credit range from the movie Rocky III (1982) as boxer Clubber Lang; D.C Cab (1983) as Samson, a Washington D.C. taxi driver; the TV movie The Toughest Man in the World (1984) as Bruise Brubaker; Not Another Teen Movie as the wise janitor (2001); and Apocalypse IV: Judgment (2001) as J.T Quincy.
His TV credits included the TV special “The World’s Toughest Bouncer” on GAMES PEOPLE PLAY (1982) MISTER T (1983) as a cartoon character who ran a gymnasium and helped teenagers; THE BATTLE OF THE NETWORK STARS XIV (1983) as an NBC Team Contestant; “WWF SUPERSTARS OF WRESTLING (1984) as Himself (1985-1986; 1988); “T. AND T.” (1988) as T.S. Turner an ex-con turned private eye; E! RANK: 25 TOUGHEST STARS (2001) as Host; and an archive footage appearance B.A. Baracus in THE 100 GREATEST TV CHARACTERS (2001) and on NBC’s 75th ANNIVERSARY (2002). He also starred in the reality series I PITY THE FOOL (2006) produced by the TV Land cable channel, and a home improvement show called I PITY THE TOOL (2015) on the DYI network.
Occasionally Mr. T appears as Conan O’Brien’s special guest and partner in various comedy sketches on the hit NBC late-night show LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O’BRIEN. In 2002 Mr. T appeared as “Inspecta Collect” in a 1-800 Collect commercials.
In the end, the one thing that reveals the real Mr. T is his statement: “Any man who don’t love his momma can’t be no friend of mine.”