- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 24, 2003

ST. ALBANS, W.Va. (AP) — The letters never stop. Requests, pleas, hard-luck stories, tales to break your heart: thousands of them, enough to fill hip-high filing cabinets that line three conference-room walls in Andrew “Jack” Whittaker’s new office.

They come by the dozens, day after day, though it has been a year since Mr. Whittaker won the richest undivided lottery jackpot in U.S. history — $314.9 million, payable in an after-tax lump sum of $113 million — in a Christmas Day drawing.

“I can’t even read them,” said Mr. Whittaker, 56. “I wouldn’t have any money left if I did.”

The visitors keep coming, too. Two to four a day — from as far away as Washington and Idaho — bringing tales of woe to the Scott Depot house Mr. Whittaker still owns, ringing the bell still answered by his wife, Jewell.

Tell the world you have $113 million, and that you’re willing to give part of it away, and the world will beat a path to your door.

“If I had to do it all over, I’d be more secluded about it,” said Mr. Whittaker, a sewer and water contractor who built a multimillion-dollar business well before he won the jackpot. “I’d do the same things, but I’d be a little more quiet.”

After winning the Powerball jackpot, Mr. Whittaker brought his wife, daughter and granddaughter to a news conference, then did a round of national interviews in which he said he would donate a tenth of his winnings to his church and start a foundation to help poor West Virginians.

In many ways, Mr. Whittaker is the same unpretentious, no-nonsense, cowboy-hat-wearing guy he was before he hit the jackpot. But his natural openness is tempered by a certain wariness. Security guards now watch his home and office, and last week an assistant videotaped and audiotaped an interview in which he said he regretted the toll fame has taken on his family.

Mr. Whittaker said he and his daughter, Ginger, were used to dealing with the public and so have not been traumatized by the attention. (“I’m not bashful; I can tell people where to go but fast.”)

But his wife and his granddaughter, Brandi, are another story.

“There should be a book to tell you how to handle it when people get thrown into the limelight,” he said. “My wife swears she’s going to write it. People aggravate her to death asking for money.”

Brandi has lost almost all of her friends, Mr. Whittaker said.

“They want her for her money and not for her good personality,” he said. “She’s the most bitter 16-year-old I know. She doesn’t communicate with almost anybody but me. I’m working on it, though.”

Lottery winners often struggle to handle newfound wealth and fame, and many become tied up in lawsuits or estranged from family and friends. One study said instant millionaires have about the same level of happiness as recent accident victims.

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