- The Washington Times - Friday, December 27, 2002

CHARLESTON, W.Va. Andrew Jackson Whittaker Jr. thanks God that he picked the six numbers that won him the $314.9 million Christmas Day Powerball jackpot, and he's putting up the money to prove it.
"The very first thing I'm going to do is go home and make out three checks to three pastors," Mr. Whittaker said. Those checks, a tithe to the Church of God, will total $17 million.
"Seventeen million in the state of West Virginia will really do good for the poor," he said, adding that the three pastors will control the money and perhaps establish a Christian school.
The 55-year-old contractor, who won the largest single-winner lottery jackpot in history, opted to take a lump sum of $170 million before taxes, instead of 30 annual installments. The lump sum is worth more than $111 million after taxes, lottery spokeswoman Nancy Bulla said.
"I just want to thank God for letting me pick the right numbers, or letting the machine pick the right numbers," said Mr. Whittaker, who claimed his winnings dressed in black and wearing a big, black cowboy hat.
Mr. Whittaker lives in the small town of Scott Depot, about 20 miles west of Charleston, and is president of three construction companies that build sewage-treatment plants and other water projects.
"I've had to work for everything in my life. This is the first thing that's ever been given to me," he said.
Mr. Whittaker said he originally thought he had lost the jackpot because the numbers came up wrong on the televised drawing Christmas night. It wasn't until yesterday morning that he realized he won.
His wife of 36 years said she plans to go to Israel.
"I'd just go to go there. It's where Jesus walked," Jewell Whittaker said.
The couple planned to travel to New York City last night.
Mr. Whittaker said he would share the rest of his winnings with his family, and may expand his business. He has a daughter named Ginger and a 15-year-old granddaughter.
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.
Mr. 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 now employs 117 persons.
He told Miss Bulla he was not a regular lottery player but he bought $100 in tickets because the jackpot was so high. He plays when it reaches $100 million.
The ticket was purchased at the C&L; Super Serve in Hurricane, 25 miles west of Charleston.
Mr. Whittaker went back to the store yesterday morning to fill up on gas and buy some biscuits, as he does each day. The clerk was the one who sold him the ticket. He told her he won, but "she said, 'No, you didn't, you're not excited enough to win the lottery.' And she just pushed me out the door," he said.
"It's so just that the poorest state in America wins the biggest Powerball in history," said Bob O'Dell, a 51-year-old resident of the town that's pronounced herr' ah cun. (West Virginia's per-capita income actually was second-lowest to Mississippi's in 2000.)
The Super Serve's owner, Larry Trogdon, will get $100,000 for selling the winning ticket.
"I have a daughter getting married this summer," he told NBC.
"I guess we're honeymooning in Hawaii," said his daughter, Amy, who manages the Super Serve and is getting married next summer to a clerk at the store.
"Heck, if you're going to Hawaii, I'm coming with you," Mr. Trogdon answered, laughing.
The jackpot was the largest ever for a single winning ticket, Miss Bulla said. It also was the third-largest jackpot in U.S. history.
An unexpected Christmas Day run on Powerball tickets pushed the already whopping $280 million jackpot to $314.9 million just before numbers were drawn, making it the Powerball's largest prize ever.
The winning numbers were 5-14-16-29-53 and the Powerball was 7.
Mr. Whittaker had the option of taking a cash payout of $170 million before taxes or collecting the entire jackpot in 30 payments over 29 years. He took the lump sum and Gov. Bob Wise presented him with an initial check of $10 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 ticketholders in Michigan and Illinois. The second was a $331 million Big Game jackpot split between 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 $1.7 billion jackpot spreads wealth among millions of people. About 10,000 numbers win some kind of prize, from $20 to $200,000.

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