Mr. T was born Laurence Tureaud on May 21, 1952 in the rough southside ghetto area of Chicago. He is the second youngest of twelve children (he has four sisters and seven brothers, and grew up in government housing. His father left when he was 5, and his mother raised the family on $87 a month welfare in a three room apartment. Mr.T's brothers encouraged him to build up his body in order to survive, and he has commented, "If you think I'm big, you should see my brothers!" His mother is a religious woman, who has had a strong influence on him. He says, "Any man who don't love his momma can't be no friend of mine".
He was an average student in school. He says "Most of the time I stared out the windows, just daydreaming. I didn't study much because I have a photographic memory." Apart from one spell between 5th and 7th grades when he went a little astray - playing hookey, cursing, acting tough, being disrespectful - he was a well behaved child (He worried about how his mother would feel if he ended up in jail). He attended Dunbar Vocational High School.
He was a football star, studied martial arts, and was a 3-time city wrestling champion. He won a scholarship to Prairie View A&M University in Texas, but was thrown out after a year. After that he went to a couple of little colleges in Chicago, always on an athletic scholarship. When he left college, Mr. T was a military policeman in the US Army. After that, he was invited to try out for the Green Bay Packers, but a knee injury finished his professional football career.
When he wasn't working as a bodyguard, he filled in by working as a bouncer. One job he had was at Dingbat's club in Chicago. Club owner Ron Riskman says, "He was always very smartly dressed and he shaved his head completely bald. He'd confront trouble makers and say to them, "It's only fair to warn you that my patience is as long as the hair on my head." Most of them would get pretty quiet after that." He changed his name in 1970 by deed poll to Laurence Tero, and later to Mr. T in order that people would HAVE to address him as "Mr."
It was whilst reading "National Geographic" that Mr. T first saw the hairstyle for which he is now famous -- on a Mandinka warrior. He felt that adopting the style was a powerful statement about his origins.
In 1975 he worked for a while on the Chicago educational scheme as a gym teacher. In 1978 he decided to do something definite about his religious beliefs and was re-baptised in the Cosmopolitan Community Church in Chicago.
In 1982, Mr. T was 'spotted' by Sylvester Stallone; he was on the TV show "Games People Play," taking part in "The World's Toughest Bouncer" contest -- tossing two stuntmen about quite casually! His role in "Rocky III" was originally intended as just a few lines, but Stallone built up the part around the man. Mr. T also appeared in another boxing film, "Penitentiary 2," and in a cable TV special, "Bizarre," before accepting the role of BA in "The A-Team." The rest is history.