Did you know that while in the army Mr. T was given the punishment of chopping down trees. The sergeant didn’t tell him how many, so Mr. T single-handedly chopped down 70 in 3.5 hours.
Mr. T was born in Chicago, Illinois, the youngest son in a family with twelve children. His father, Nathaniel Tureaud Sr., was a minister. Tureaud, with his four sisters and seven brothers, grew up in a three-room apartment in one of the city’s housing projects, the Robert Taylor Homes, in a poorly constructed building, in an area with high levels of environmental pollutants and the largest concentration of poverty in America. While growing up, Tureaud regularly witnessed murder, rape, and other crimes, but attributes his survival and later success to his will to do well and his mother’s love.
Mr. T as a senior in high school, 1970.
Tureaud attended Dunbar Vocational High School, where he played football, wrestled, and studied martial arts. While at Dunbar he became the city-wide wrestling champion two years in a row. He won a football scholarship to Prairie View A&M University, where he majored in mathematics, but was expelled after his first year.
He then enlisted in the United States Army and served in the Military Police Corps. In November 1975, Tureaud was awarded a letter of recommendation by his drill sergeant, and in a cycle of six thousand troops Tureaud was elected “Top Trainee of the Cycle” and was also promoted to squad leader. In July 1976, Tureaud’s platoon sergeant punished him by giving him the detail of chopping down trees during training camp at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, but did not tell him how many trees, so Tureaud single-handedly chopped down over seventy trees from 6:30 am to 10:00 am, until a shocked major superseded the sergeant’s orders.
After his discharge, he tried out for the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League, but failed to make the team due to a knee injury.
Tureaud next worked as a bouncer. It was at this time that he created the persona of Mr. T. His wearing of gold neck chains and other jewelry was the result of customers losing the items or leaving them behind at the night club after a fight. A customer, who may have been banned from the club or trying to avoid another confrontation, would not have to re-enter the club if Mr. T wore their jewelry as he stood out front. When a customer returned to claim the item, it was readily visible and available with no further confrontation required. Along with controlling the violence as a doorman, Tureaud was mainly hired to keep out drug dealers and users. During his bouncing days, Tureaud was in over 200 fights and was sued a number of times,[vague] but won each case. “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,” Mr. T once remarked.
He eventually parlayed his job as a bouncer into a career as a bodyguard that lasted almost ten years. During these years he protected, among others, sixteen prostitutes, nine welfare recipients, five preachers, eight bankers, ten school teachers, and four store owners. As his reputation improved, however, he was contracted to guard, among others, seven clothes designers, five models, seven judges, three politicians, six athletes and forty-two millionaires. He protected well-known personalities such as Muhammad Ali, Steve McQueen, Michael Jackson, Leon Spinks, Joe Frazier and Diana Ross, charging $3,000 per day, to a maximum of $10,000 per day, depending on the clientele’s risk-rate and traveling locations.
With his reputation as “Mr. T”, Tureaud attracted strange offers and was frequently approached with odd commissions, which included: assassination, tracking runaway teenagers, locating missing persons, and large firms asking him to collect past-due payments by force. Tureaud was once anonymously offered $75,000 to assassinate a target and received in the mail a file of the hit and an advance of $5,000, but he refused it.
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.
Tureaud states that he tried to warn the victim, but it was too late and the man died in a car accident. In accepting a client, for Tureaud there were two rules: 1) A client could not lie to him. 2) All potential clients were required to shop around before coming to him. He also made it clear to the client beforehand that he could not promise them their lives, “I did everything except guarantee people’s lives, but I guarantee you that I will give my life protecting yours”. He carried a .357 Magnum and a .38 caliber snubnose revolver. He weighed an average of 255 pounds (116 kg).While he was in his late twenties, Tureaud won two tough-man competitions consecutively. The first aired as “Sunday Games” on NBC-TV under the contest of “America’s Toughest Bouncer” which included throwing a 150-pound (68 kg) stuntman, and breaking through a 4-inch (10 cm) wooden door. For the first event, Tureaud came in third place. For the end, two finalists squared off in a boxing ring for a two-minute round to declare the champion. Making it to the ring as a finalist, his opponent was a 280-pound (130 kg) Honolulu bouncer named Tutefano Tufi. Within twenty seconds “Mr. T” gave the six foot five competitor a bloody nose, and later a bloody mouth. He won the match and thus the competition. The second competition was aired under the new name “Games People Play” on NBC-TV. When interviewed by Bryant Gumbel before the final boxing match, Mr T. said, “I just feel sorry for the guy who I have to box. I just feel real sorry for him.” This fight was scheduled to last three rounds, but Mr. T finished it in less than 54 seconds. When Sylvester Stallone spotted Mr. T in this second airing, it is strongly believed that the interview with sports journalist Bryant Gumbel originated his famous line “I don’t hate him but…I pity the fool”, which was worked into the movie Rocky III.