Born in Chicago, Illinois, Mr. T is the youngest boy in a family of 12 children. His father was a minister who left the family when Mr. T was only five years old, leaving his mother to raise him and his siblings. In high school, he excelled at athletics and became a football star and three-time wrestling champion.
In the mid-70s, he found a job as a doorman. His days as a military policeman helped him gain a reputation as one of Chicago's toughest, and most infamous, bouncers. Always the consummate showman, he adopted a Mohawk hairstyle inspired by a National Geographic photo of an African Mandikan warrior. He started sporting piles of gold jewelry, which he claimed to have taken from misbehaving customers. He also adopted the name Mr. T, claiming the new moniker would force customers to show him respect.
Mr. T's position as a bouncer for one of Chicago's hottest nightclubs frequently put him in contact with celebrities. His outrageous reputation and his famous connections earned Mr. T the new job of celebrity bodyguard, and he began protecting stars such as Steve McQueen, Diana Ross and Muhammad Ali. The job lasted nearly 10 years, until Sylvester Stallone watched Mr. T on a TV series in which he won World's Toughest Bouncer.
Stallone decided to cast the bodyguard in his film, Rocky III. Mr. T played 'Clubber Lang,' a boxer pitted against the film's main character, 'Rocky Balboa.' It was during the filming of this movie that Mr. T coined the catch phrase, "I pity the fool!" The film became a blockbuster hit, and his performance made him an overnight sensation. Taking advantage of his newly found fame, Mr. T landed a starring role in the film D.C. Cab. He also premiered in his own cartoon series, Mister T, which aired on NBC. On television, he starred on The A-Team. He later starred in his own reality show, I Pity the Fool, and voiced the character of 'Officer Earl Devereaux' in the animated movie, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
In 1985 Mr. T entered the world of professional wrestling. He became the tag-team partner of wrestling legend Hulk Hogan in WrestleMania I. Around this time, he also began starring in his own show, T. and T., about a streetwise kid who became a city detective. In 2015 Mr. T was inducted into the Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Gaining a reputation as an advocate and role model for young people, Mr. T began aiming more of his work around helping youths. In 1984 he released a music album entitled "Mr. T's Commandments," which encouraged children to make good choices. He followed the success of this album with a motivational video and film soundtrack, entitled "Be Somebody... or Be Somebody's Fool!" aimed at encouraging children to make responsible decisions.
Mr. T is partnered with Pro Kym Herjavec.