10 Lesser-Known Facts About Lawrence Tureaud aka Mr. T

Mr. T, a retired professional wrestler and a beloved American actor, is quite well-known for his unique persona. His  Mandinka warrior hairstyle, gold jewelry, and his tough-guy image are what makes him stand apart. Even though we know that he was in Rocky III, there are a lot more facts about Mr. T that we are unaware of. If you are interested, then we suggest you read on!

1. Mr. T has 11 siblings and grew up in a three-room apartment in one of Chicago’s housing projects.

Mr. T, Robert Taylor Homes
Image credit: Dunbar Vocational High School/Wikimedia, Image source: Wikimedia

Lawrence Tureaud, or Mr. T as we now know him, was born on May 21, 1952. He was the youngest in a family with 12 kids – four girls and eight boys. His childhood was spent in a three-room apartment which was located in one of Chicago’s housing projects known as Robert Taylor Homes. The house was in a poorly constructed building, and the area was engulfed with harmful environmental pollutants. Mr. T grew up in one of the largest, poverty-stricken areas.

Moreover, crime was a common occurrence in the locality. Mr. T witnessed crimes such as murder and rape regularly throughout his childhood. But it was his own determined will and his mother’s selfless love that made him survive his harsh childhood and become the man he is today.(source)

2. He took the name “Mr. T” to gain respect from White people who used to call his father and brothers “boy.” He self-ordained himself “Mr. T” so the first word used when anyone calls him is “mister.”

Mr. T
Image source: rocky.wikia.com

Growing up in the housing projects, Tureaud felt like his family never got the respect they deserved, especially from White people. This played an important role in the personality that he carved out for himself and displayed as Mr. T. In his words, “I think about my father being called ‘boy’, my uncle being called ‘boy’, my brother, coming back from Vietnam and being called ‘boy’. So I questioned myself: ‘What does a Black man have to do before he’s given the respect as a man?’ 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.’ That’s a sign of respect that my father didn’t get, that my brother didn’t get, that my mother didn’t get.”

Well, we respect you to the core, Mr. T!(source)

3. After getting expelled from his university, Mr. T joined the military, and on one occasion, he was ordered to cut down trees as a punishment by a sergeant. He cut down 70 trees in 3.5 hours before a shocked major ordered him to stop.

Mr. T
Image credit: Screengrab via OfficialMrTvideos/Youtube

Mr. T won a football scholarship to Prairie View A&M University when he was attending Dunbar Vocational High School. It’s hard to believe, but in the university, he majored in mathematics. But unfortunately, he was expelled from college in one year.

He then signed up for the United States Army and served in the Military Police Corps. By the end of 1975, he received a letter of recommendation from his drill sergeant and was also elected as the “Top Trainee of the Cycle” out of a cycle of 6,000 troops. He also got promoted to squad leader.

In 1976, when Mr. T was at a training camp in Wisconsin, the sergeant of his platoon gave out a punishment and ordered him to chop down trees. The only thing the sergeant forgot to specify was how many trees to chop down. To everybody’s disbelief, Mr. T went ahead and chopped down 70 trees in just 3.5 hours and that too single-handedly. He only stopped after a shocked major overrode the sergeant’s order and ordered him to stop.(source)

4. Mr. T first noticed the unusual hairstyle, for which he is now famous, on a Mandinka warrior while reading National Geographic.

Mr. T Mohawk Hairstyle
Image credit: Phil Denton/Flickr

Even though some of us call Mr. T’s haircut a mohawk, it’s actually not. Once in 1977, Mr. T was reading a National Geographic magazine when he happened to see a photo of an African warrior. He belonged to the  Mandinka ethnic group of Africa. He was standing with his spear and had beads around his neck and colorful accessories on his ankles.

But what caught Mr. T’s eyes was his hairstyle. It was so unique and Mr. T had never seen it before. So, he thought to himself, “Wow, let me bring respect to them,” as he mentioned in an interview with the AllHipHop.com. But he is okay if people call his hairstyle a mohawk.(source)

5. Originally, Mr. T’s gold chains came from customers at the nightclub where he worked as a bouncer. People had either lost them or left them behind after a fight.

Mr. T
Image source: thegospeltruthnewspaper.com

After Mr. T was discharged from his military duties, he almost made it to the National Football League but had to drop out due to a knee injury. He next took up a job as a bouncer. It was around this time that the persona of Mr. T with the gold chains and the jewelry started taking shape. Numerous customers would lose their jewelry or leave them behind in the club after a fight. It was that jewelry that Mr. T started wearing at first. Sometimes, people would return to claim his lost jewelry and Mr. T would conspicuously wear it in front of them.

Apart from breaking up fights in the club, Mr. T was also responsible for keeping drug dealers and users out. He had been in more than 200 fights during his bouncing days and was sued numerous times. Once he remarked, “I have been in and out of the courts as a result of my beating up somebody. I have been sued by customers whom I threw out that claimed that I viciously attacked them without just cause and/or I caused them great bodily harm as a result of a beating I supposedly gave them.”(source)

6. After working as a bouncer, he started a career as a bodyguard for celebrities such as  Muhammad Ali, Steve McQueen, Michael Jackson, etc. He used to charge $3,000 to $10,000 per day.

Lawrence Tureaud
Image credit: Screen-grabbed and Edited via OfficialMrTvideos/Youtube

After breaking up numerous fights as a club’s bouncer, Mr. T entered into something more meaningful. Yes, he became a bodyguard for which his qualities were more suited. This career continued for him for about 10 years. During this time, he offered protection to nine welfare recipients, sixteen prostitutes, eight bankers, five preachers, four store owners, and ten school teachers among others.

But as soon as his reputation began to grow in this field, he received contracts to protect five models, seven clothes designers, three politicians, six athletes, seven judges, and forty-two millionaires. Some of his clients included  Muhammad Ali, Steve McQueen, Michael Jackson, Leon Spinks, Joe Frazier and Diana Ross. Moreover, he used to charge $3,000 to $10,000 per day depending on the risk-rate and location of the client.(source)

7. During his bodyguarding days, Mr. T was paid to assassinate someone. He refused and tried to warn the victim but was too late.

Mr. T aka Lawrence Tureaud
Image source: thegospeltruthnewspaper.com

Mr. T’s reputation as a bodyguard grew so much that he started getting offers for other commissions such as tracking teenagers who have run away from home, locating people who were missing, collecting payments by force, and of course, assassination.

He was once offered $75,000, anonymously, to assassinate a target. He received a file in the mail with details related to the hit, along with an advance of $5,000. In Mr. T’s words. “He offered me $75,000 to kill his friend. The last envelope and letter contained a round-trip airline ticket, first class, United. Plus there was $5,000 wrapped in a little package, fifty and hundred dollar bills. I tell you the honest truth when I saw that money I didn’t believe it was real.”

Mr. T refused the offer and even tried to warn the person who was targeted. But he was too late and the guy died in a car accident.(source)

8. Even though he was baptized as a child, Mr. T became a born-again Christian after he landed the part in Rocky III and credits his success to the generous donations he made to his church.

Rocky iii poster, Mr. T
Image credits: United Artists/Wikipedia, Darthtyler/rocky.wikia.com

Mr. T was baptized as a child when he was four years old. But, as with all kids, he never grasped the concept thoroughly. Later, as he grew older, he started deeply accepting Jesus Christ. He got re-baptized in 1977.

Before he got famous, Mr. T used to take part in a contest called the “Toughest Bouncer in America.” As soon as he started training for the contest, he called up his pastor, Reverend Henry Hardy of Cosmopolitan Community Church and said, “Pastor Hardy, they’re having a contest, and when I win this contest I’m going to give you the money, so you can buy food and clothes for less fortunate people in the community.”

Mr. T won the contest for two consecutive years and, true to his words, he donated over $10,000 to the church. Then he landed the part in Rocky III. Mr. T believes that getting the part in the movie was a blessing for all the good work that he had done towards the church.(source)

9. In 1987, he angered the residents of Lake Forest, Illinois by cutting down more than a hundred oak trees on his estate. The national media referred to the incident as “The Lake Forest Chain Saw Massacre.”

Mr. T, The Lake Forest Chain Saw Massacre
Image source: chicago.curbed.com

In May 1987, Mr. T reportedly chopped down hundreds of trees at his Lake Forest mansion. Apparently, he was suffering from an allergy of some kind. But while it felt like the right way to deal with his allergies, his actions brought outrage among the town’s residents. Actually, Mr. T’s actions were a complete violation of an unwritten code of aesthetics of the beautiful town.

Angry residents called it ”The Lake Forest Chain Saw Massacre.” In the end, however, the residents and the city officials had to agree that Mr. T has the right to do anything on his own estate.(source)

10. Mr. T stopped wearing this trademark gold chains in 2005 after seeing people who had lost everything to Hurricane Katrina.

Mr. T
Image credit: marco antonio torres/Flickr

When someone talks about Mr. T, the first things that come to mind is his signature style – the unique hairstyle and the gold chains. But since 2005, Mr. T gave up wearing his trademark gold chains after he helped with the cleanup of the destruction made by Hurricane Katrina. In his words, “As a Christian, when I saw other people lose their lives and their land and property… I felt that it would be a sin before God for me to continue wearing my gold.” I felt it would be unnecessary and disrespectful to the people who lost everything, so I stopped wearing my gold.”(source)

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