Terrence Howard is no stranger to movie and TV viewers. According to the impressive roster of screen credits he’s racked up on IMDb, Howard received his big break when he was cast as Jackie Jackson of The Jackson 5 in the 1992 made-for-TV movie The Jacksons: An American Dream.
A breakout performance opposite Martin Lawrence in 2000’s Big Momma’s House followed, leading to bigger projects, such as the ensemble drama Crash, winner of the Best Picture Oscar at the 2006 Academy Awards.
A few years later, Howard landed the starring role in the rap drama Hustle & Flow, which earned him an Academy Award nomination for best actor. Further projects included Iron Man, Disney’s The Princess and the Frog, the lead role in short-lived spinoff Law & Order: LA, and a small part in director Lee Daniels’ The Butler.
When Daniels was casting his TV series Empire, he hired Howard for the starring role of rapper/mogul Lucious Lyon in what turned out to be a hit series that ran from 2015 until 2020.
Yet despite his onscreen triumphs, Howard’s personal life has been marred by scandal, rife with shocking allegations and courtroom drama that played out publicly.
A violent incident shaped Terrence Howard’s childhood
When Terrence Howard was just two years old, his father, Tyrone Howard, took his three children and pregnant wife to see Santa Claus at a Cleveland, Ohio department store. While waiting, the youngsters’ father exchanged words with another man, who accused him of cutting in front of him in the line.
According to a report about the incident in The New York Times, accounts of what happened next were varied, but culminated with Tyrone stabbing the other man to death with a nail file.
The incident came to be known as “the Santa Line Slaying,” and sent Tyrone to prison for 11 months. In a 2015 interview with Rolling Stone, Terrence Howard looked back on that horrific childhood trauma. “I was standing next to my father, watching,” he said. “Then stuff happened so quickly — blood was on the coats, on our jackets — and then my dad’s on a table and then my dad is gone to prison.”
Bullying led to more violence in Terrence Howard’s upbringing
As Terrence Howard told Rolling Stone, his mother was just 15 when he was born. After the delivery, his skin appeared so yellow that doctors feared he had jaundice and placed him in an incubator, where the newborn spent the next three days.
As he grew older, the yellow tinge of his skin remained. This, he said, led him to be given the nickname “High Yellow” in what he called his “ghetto” neighborhood, where he was regularly bullied and beaten for it. “Let’s smack him and see how long it takes him to turn red,” Howard recalled kids saying about him. When his uncle watched him get beaten up at age 13, he took the youngster under his wing and “taught him how to box, Rocky-style.”
After Howard became skilled in fisticuffs, the tables were turned on the bullies who had made his childhood miserable. “I was the pretty boy, so people didn’t think I could defend myself,” he told the mag, adding, “It didn’t end up being a good day for them.”
Terrence Howard was arrested for spousal abuse
In 2001, Terrence Howard was arrested after an allegedly violent altercation with his then-wife, Lori McCommas. According to the police report obtained by The Smoking Gun, McCommas and Howard (who were then separated) were reportedly arguing over the phone. McCommas claimed that Howard told her if she hung up on him he’d “come over and hurt (her).”
She hung up and called 911. While she was on the phone with a police dispatcher, Howard allegedly arrived, breaking down the locked door. When he caught up with her, she alleged he grabbed her by the arm “and punched her twice with a closed fist in the left side of the face.” When an officer arrived on the scene, Howard confessed, “I broke the door down and hit my wife.”
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