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Even Before Acting Career, the Army Was Mr. T's 'A-Team'

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Famed actor and professional wrestler Mr. T once served in the Army for several years. 

He enlisted in 1975 and did so well in basic training that he was named the top trainee out of about 6,000 recruits. 

A student poses for photo.
Mr. T
Mr. T, a senior at Dunbar Vocational High School in Chicago, Ill., in his 1970 yearbook.
Photo By: Courtesy of Mr. T
VIRIN: 700405-O-D0439-001

After basic, he was assigned the military occupational specialty of military police.  

In 1976, while on a training exercise in Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, he committed a minor infraction, and his platoon sergeant decided to teach him a lesson by ordering him to chop down trees. A couple of hours later, he had felled about 70 with his ax and was ordered to stop. 

After his enlistment, Mr. T used his military policing skills and intimidating physique to secure a job as a nightclub bouncer in Chicago. 

Actors acting.
Mr. T
Mr. T, center, on the TV set of "The A-Team" in 1984.
Photo By: Courtesy of Cees de Boer
VIRIN: 840405-O-D0439-001

A couple of years later, he got hired as a bodyguard in Los Angeles. His celebrity clients included Steve McQueen, Michael Jackson, LeVar Burton, Diana Ross, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and Leon Spinks. 

When he appeared on NBC TV's "America's Toughest Bouncer" competition in 1980, he caught the eye of director and actor Sylvester Stallone, who decided to cast him as boxer Clubber Lang in the 1982 film "Rocky III." His acting career took off after that. 

Four men pose for a photo.
"The A-Team"
The cast of "The A-Team" Poses for a photo: from left, back row: Templeton "Faceman" Peck played by Dirk Benedict; H. M. Murdock played by Dwight Schultz; B. A. Baracus played by Mr. T; front row, John "Hannibal" Smith played by George Peppard.
Photo By: Gary Null
VIRIN: 850110-O-D0439-001

Mr. T's experiences as a soldier paid off when he was cast as Sgt. B.A. Baracus, an Army Special Forces vet, in the TV series "The A-Team," which ran from 1983 to 1987. 

Mr. T, born Laurence Tureaud in Chicago, May 21, 1952, legally changed his name to Mr. T in 1970. He said he wanted to be respected, having seen Black men called boy when he was growing up. 

Man speaks.
Mr. T
Mr. T during his induction into the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame, April 5, 2014.
Photo By: Courtesy of Miguel Discart
VIRIN: 140405-O-D0439-001

While reading a "National Geographic" magazine in the late 1970s, Mr. T first noticed the unusual hairstyle for which he is now famous, on a Mandinka warrior. He decided that adopting the style would be a powerful statement about his African ancestry, and it has become part of his signature look, along with his gold chains, rings and bracelets. 

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