We've written about a lot of lucky lottery winners at Shared, but we've never come across a winner quite like Andrew "Jack" Whittaker.
The mild-mannered construction company owner from Hurricane, West Virginia set a national record on Christmas Day 2002, when his lucky numbers won him $315 million. Whittaker didn't even like to play the lottery, but he was at the grocery store anyways and bought $100 worth of tickets, since the jackpot was so big.
At the time, Whittaker's win was the largest jackpot ever won by a single person. It was also pretty ironic, because Whittaker was already worth at least $17 million because of his business. To give back, the man who already had so much donated 10% of his winnings to Christian charities, and started a non-profit organization in his name.
Whittaker even spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay back the clerk that sold his winning ticket. The grateful winner bought her a new house, a new Jeep Brand Cherokee, and signed her a check worth $44,000. As the New York Times reported, Whittaker was excited about the "good works" he could fund with his winnings.
But just months after his numbers were drawn, Whittaker started feeling the effects of what he calls "the Powerball curse"...
Whittaker had grown up poor, and wasn't prepared to handle the huge number of people who approached him looking for money.
A generous person by nature, he gave away more than $50 million to friends, neighbors, family, and even total strangers. But the sudden attention also put a strain on Whittaker's marriage, and he divorced his wife soon after the win. Next, thieves started pilfering Whittaker's winnings.
The eccentric millionaire was known for carrying more than $500,000 around in his car ("Because I can.") and was the target of thieves multiples times. In another incident, Whittaker claimed that 12 men used phony checks to withdraw a huge amount of money from his bank account.
His construction company was also bombarded with lawsuits - Whittaker says he was never sued before he won the lottery - and at one time he was facing more than 400 court cases at the same time.
But the worst twist of all came two years after Whittaker won the prize money. His granddaughter Brandi's boyfriend overdosed inside Whittaker's home, and soon after his granddaughter died under mysterious circumstances. Years later, Whittaker's daughter died suddenly too. Whittaker says the tragedies drove him to drink.
As of last year, Whittaker is still working into his late 60s to support himself, and his (uninsured) mansion recently burned to the ground.
“You know, my wife had said she wished that she had torn the ticket up," Whittaker once said. "Well, I wish that we had torn the ticket up too."
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