The $315 Million Man

Andrew Jackson Whittaker Powerball winner wowk

A 55-year-old contractor won the $314.9 million Christmas Day jackpot — the biggest undivided lottery prize in history — and said the first thing he will do is turn over 10 percent to his church.

"I just want to thank God for letting me pick the right numbers — or letting the machine pick the right numbers," said Powerball winner Andrew "Jack" Whittaker Jr., dressed in black with a big black cowboy hat.

Whittaker stepped forward Thursday with his wife, daughter and 15-year-old granddaughter and accepted an oversized facsimile check for $314.9 million and a cashable $10 million first installment on the multistate lottery prize.

He said he plans to lavish money on his family, expand his contracting business, maybe buy a helicopter, and give to the Church of God.

"The very first thing I'm going to do is sit down and make out three checks to three pastors for 10 percent of this check," he said.

He said he would provide $17 million to the three pastors and let them control the money and perhaps establish a Christian school.

"Seventeen million in the state of West Virginia will really do good for the poor," he said.

Whittaker, who lives in the small town of Scott Depot, about 20 miles west of Charleston, and is president of three construction companies that build sewage plants and other water projects, opted to take a lump sum of $170 million before taxes, instead of 30 annual installments.

"I've had to work for everything in my life. This is the first thing that's
ever been given to me," he said.

Whittaker said he originally thought he had lost the jackpot because the numbers came up wrong on the televised drawing Christmas night. It was not until Thursday morning that he realized he hit all six numbers and won.

It's the world's biggest jackpot ever won by a single ticketholder, West Virginia lottery spokeswoman Nancy Bulla said. It's also the third-largest jackpot in U.S. history.

CBS News Correspondent Joie Chen reports that at the convenience store where Whittaker bought his ticket, the women who know him as a regular they've dubbed "Cowboy Man" shared the excitement.

They listened to the radio as Whittaker spoke to reporters, stunned that he'd come to the store as usual Thursday morning, knowing he had won the lottery, and ordered his regular egg, bacon and tomato biscuit.

They started to suspect he might be the winner when he gave the cook a $100 tip.

"He goes, 'This is your Christmas present,'" said Brenda, the cook. "I said, 'Well, thank you!' I didn't think nothing of it. And then I was thinking, uh oh, maybe he did win."

Whittaker's daughter, Ginger McMahan, said she had cancer twice and had not worked for about a year. "I was getting ready to go back to work, but I think I'm retired now," she said.

Whittaker's wife of 36 years, Jewell, said she plans to go to Israel: "It's where Jesus walked."

Whittaker also said he wants to help "people who want to better themselves to have a better life."

"I'm getting really excited because of the good works I can do with this money," he said.

He said little about buying luxuries for himself — aside from a helicopter he said he had had his eye on for a while.

"I have 25 people laid off right now at Christmas and I want more work so I can put them back to work," he said. He said he now employs 117 people.

He said he was not a regular lottery player but bought $100 in tickets because the jackpot was so high. He said he plays only when it reaches $100 million.

Powerball, the nation's largest lottery game, is sold in 23 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Before the Christmas 2002 prize, the largest Powerball jackpot was $295.7 million in July 1998.

The biggest lottery jackpot in U.S. history was a Big Game prize of $363 million, won in May 2000 by two ticketholders in Michigan and Illinois. The second-biggest jackpot was a $331 million Big Game prize split among three tickets in April.

Spain's annual Christmas lottery known as El Gordo — The Fat One —
is billed as the world's richest. This year's jackpot is $1.7 billion. But about 10,000 numbers win at least a piece of prize, from $20 to $200,000.

  • Jarrett Murphy

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