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Terrence Howard Discusses Watching His Father Kill a Man in 'Santa Line Slaying'

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When Terrence Howard was only 2 years old, a visit to a Cleveland, Ohio, department store to meet Santa Claus veered into tragedy. A scuffle between his father, Tyrone Howard, and another man in line ended in the latter’s death.

In a new profile in Rolling Stone, Howard, 46, discusses the 1971 incident, for which his father was sentenced to prison on manslaughter charges.

As a result of the “Santa Line Slaying,” Howard’s father ended up serving 11 months in prison, at which point he was paroled for good behavior. Howard’s mother and father separated shortly thereafter. Accounts differ about what led to the altercation between Tyrone Howard and Jack Fitzpatrick, another father taking his family to visit Santa.

Howard described how his coat was spattered with blood after the attack, which ocurred in front of him and dozens of other families with children.

Some allege race motivated an argument between the two men, and others speculate on the nature of the weapon Howard’s father used to stab Fitzpatrick. (The weapon was never recovered.) However, in the Rolling Stone profile, Howard says that his father imparted to him the need for a man to stand up for himself.

“My daddy taught me, ‘Never take the vertebrae out of your back or the bass out of your throat. I ain’t raisin’ sheep. I raised men. Stay a man,’ ” Howard recalls. “But being a man comes with a curse because it’s not a society made for men to flourish anymore. Everything is androgynous, you know? The more successful men now are the effeminate.”

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Throughout the interview, Howard discusses his lifelong status as an outsider. For example, he was a victim of childhood bullying that resulted from his light skin. At age 13, his uncle taught him to defend himself. “I was the pretty boy, so people didn’t think I could defend myself, but it didn’t end up being a good day for them.”

The actor also implies that being an outsider helped him think differently. Perhaps foremost among Howard’s unconventional ideas is his revolutionary theory about math: specifically that one times one is two, not one. Calling his ideas about math “Terryology,” which he has patented, Howard claims they will change the way people understand the universe.

“This is the last century that our children will ever have been taught that one times one is one,” he says. “They won’t have to grow up in ignorance. Twenty years from now, they’ll know that one times one equals two. We’re about to show a new truth. The true universal math.

“And the proof is in these pieces,” referring to a set of plastic shapes that he and his wife, Mira Pak, have cut out and assembled. “I have created the pieces that make up the motion of the universe. We work on them about 17 hours a day. She cuts and puts on the crystals. I do the main work of soldering them together. They tell the truth from within.”

The piece also reveals that Wesley Snipes was creator Lee Daniels’ first choice to play the Lyon family patriarch on Empire, but Taraji P. Henson, who plays Howard’s wife onscreen and who starred opposite him in 2005’s Hustle & Flow, insisted on Howard for the lead role.

Howard feels he is close to his Empire character.

“Everything I do with Lucious is still me,” he says. “I just change the vibration. Because Lucious has a very base understanding of life – kill or be killed – I keep him down at a very low frequency.”

And among other revelations – including that while in high school he cured his Bell’s palsy facial paralysis by shocking himself with wires from his father’s electric razor – Howard says he would like to quit from acting after Empire.

“I’m just trying to pay my bills. I’m looking forward to this show running its course. If I make a decent amount of money from it, I’ll retire,” he says. “The problem with this business,” he says, “you lose yourself.”