Here's How Mr. T Got His Name

Mr. T needs no introduction. He's one of the most recognizable figures in pop culture history due in no small part to his iconic mohawk, gruff voice, plethora of gold jewelry, and legendary catchphrase, "I pity the fool!" Because his career spans across TV, film, and wrestling, some might even say he's a bit of a renaissance man (although it might not be a good idea to call him a renaissance man to his face – he once told People "I don't do Shakespeare. I don't talk in that kind of broken English").

According to Biography, before Mr. T became the cultural icon he is today, he was Laurence Tureaud, a young boy who was mostly raised by his mother after his minister father left the family when he was only 5 years old. While Laurence wasn't the greatest student, he was an excellent athlete who competed in football and wrestling. It was during this time that he developed the bulky figure that would characterize him for the rest of his career, and paved the way for his next several jobs.

How He Got His Name

Biography states that Laurence Tureaud spent some time as a military police officer before trying out for the Green Bay Packers until a severe knee injury ended his NFL career before it even started. Still, there was plenty of work for a man of his physical prowess and it wasn't long before he became one of the toughest bouncers in Chicago. It was during this time that elements of his signature style began to emerge, including his Mohawk and excessive jewelry.

But the biggest transformation to occur during this time was his decision to change his name to Mr. T, telling Playboy in 1983 (via Festival Reviews) that "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 'Mr.' That's a sign of respect that my father didn't get, that my brother didn't get, that my mother didn't get." And thus, one of the most famous monikers in pop culture was born.


Before even stepping foot in front of the camera or in the ring, Mr. T had solidified his persona during his time as a bouncer. As chronicled in Biography, his assertive demeanor as a bouncer and connections to prestigious nightclubs led to him becoming a bodyguard for celebrities and sports stars, including Michael Jackson, Steve McQueen, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, and more, per People. Mr. T's big break came about when Sylvester Stallone saw him participating in a televised bouncer competition and immediately cast him as Clubber Lang in "Rocky III," which introduced the world to his catchphrase, "I pity the fool!".

Mr. T was extremely busy throughout the 1980s, which saw him appear in a whole slew of projects and endeavors. After the box office success of "Rocky III," he appeared in such TV and film projects as "D.C. Cab," "Saturday Night Live," "Silver Spoons," "Alvin & the Chipmunks," "The Toughest Man in the World," and many more, and let's not forget his role as B.A. Baracus in the hit show, "The A-Team." While Mr. T hasn't shown up onscreen or in the ring as much as he used to in recent years, he still pops up to remind us that he's nobody's fool.