“I pity the fool” was actor, armed forces veteran, wrestler and weightlifter Mr. T’s favorite catchphrase. Born Lawrence Tureaud, Mr. T has been on the big screen, small screen and everywhere in between with his signature “tough-guy” attitude.
Tureaud 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, an area with 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. Why he went by “Mr. T.” as his professional name wasn’t by chance. It was a decision based on his childhood regarding the lack of respect from white people:
“I think about my father being called ‘boy’, my uncle being called ‘boy’, my brother, coming back from Vietnam and being called ‘boy’” explained Mr. T. “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 ‘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.”
On-screen he says, “To the women, the ‘T’ stands for tender. To the thugs, ‘T’ stands for tough.”
But the toughness wasn’t just for the cameras. Mr. T had the toughest fight of his life when he was diagnosed with a rare T-cell lymphoma cancer. But the former A-Team star bounced back to great health thanks to his diet and faith.
“My momma always told me to treat people right, eat good, live good and pray…and everything else will fall into place,” confesses Mr. T.
The “tough teddy bear” insists his odd diet of chicken and peanut butter helped him build up his strength as he was fighting against cancer. He says, “I eat a whole rotisserie chicken for breakfast every day. It’s nice and moist from the health food store.”
“Later, I have a peanut butter sandwich with a banana and some applesauce. All that helps to get me through the day.”
Mr. T, who is 68 and no longer undergoing chemotherapy, and hasn’t been for over a decade, says his diet has got him feeling so good that he’d like to jump back in the ring. Below is an account of what he went through:
“The cancer came back and I went to the doctor,” explained Mr. T. “There was some stuff on my back and what-not and I went to my doctor. Then he saw it and then he said ‘I think it’s time to go to chemotherapy.’ That’s when it hit me – the whole thing of cancer, because you know, when you hear of cancer, you know, chemotherapy, people’s hair falls out and they get skinny.
But Mr. T. had a different plan.