After what seemed like an eternity but what was in fact a mere 22 days, the winner of the largest jackpot in Tennessee Lottery history came forward today to claim his $259.8 million Powerball prize won from the drawing held June 11.
Amid TV cameras and cheers from an enthusiastic crowd of well-wishers at Lottery headquarters in Nashville, Knoxville Roy Cockrum, 58, stood for pictures with Lottery President and CEO Rebecca Hargrove and the traditional oversized winner's "check" after presenting his winning ticket earlier to Lottery officials.
According to Roy Cockrum, the realization that he had won the jackpot "literally knocked me to my knees. My prayer was simple?'Lord have Mercy'! But life goes on, so I picked myself up, put the winning ticket in my wallet and went to pick up my mother." He added that soon thereafter, he sought financial counsel on how best to handle his windfall.
Roy Cockrum chose to receive the prize as a lump-sum rather than an annuitized payment. The cash value of the $259.8 million jackpot is $153.5 million.
"We often say the Lottery offers 'Game Changing Fun,' and never was that more true than in the case of Roy Cockrum," said Rebecca Hargrove, President and CEO of the Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation. "As we've waited for this day, Tennesseans across the state have enjoyed imagining what they would do if they were the lucky winner. Now we have had the chance to meet Mr. Cockrum and we couldn't be more pleased for him, his family, and all the good works he proposes going forward. Of course, all of us at the Lottery are especially grateful for how Powerball and our other games drive funding for the education programs that assist so many students across the state."
In his statement, Mr. Cockrum said he was born and raised in Knoxville, attended Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, then spent more than 20 years working as an actor and stage manager for theater and television. He later entered an Episcopal religious order in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he was known as Brother Roy. "I really believe the best way to prepare for this tsunami of cash has been to live under a vow of poverty for a number of years," Mr. Cockrum said. "It gives great perspective."
Mr. Cockrum returned to Knoxville in 2009 to take care of his parents. He is self-employed.
Regarding how he intends to make use of his winnings, Mr. Cockrum said he would set aside enough to create his "pension fund," make "large gifts to a long list of charities," and in keeping with his background in theater, devote the majority of the prize to a foundation he is creating to "support performing arts organizations around the country."
"I am very excited to work on this project with longtime friends experienced in supporting the arts in this way," he added.
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