Famed Powerball Winner Who Lost So Much Dead at 72

Jack Whittaker's wife left him, his granddaughter died after record win
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 30, 2020 7:07 PM CDT
Powerball Winner Whose Life Publicly Fell Apart Dead at 72
In this Aug. 30, 2007 photo Jack Whittaker speaks during an interview in Mount Hope, W.Va.   (AP Photo/Jeff Gentner)

Andrew "Jack" Whittaker Jr., whose life became rife with setbacks and tragedy after winning a record $315 million Powerball jackpot on Christmas night in 2002, has died. He was 72. An official with the Ronald Meadows Funeral Parlor in Hinton, West Virginia, said Tuesday that Whittaker died of natural causes, but he refused to say when or where, reports the AP. Whittaker became an instant celebrity at 55 when he claimed what was then the largest US lottery jackpot won by a single ticket. He opted for the lump-sum payout of $113.4 million after taxes but quickly fell victim to scandals, lawsuits, and personal setbacks as he endured constant requests for money, leaving him unable to trust others. His wife left him. A friend of his drug-addicted granddaughter was found dead at his home in 2004. Three months later, his 17-year-old granddaughter was gone, too. In 2016, he lost a Virginia home to a fire.

He struggled with drinking and gambling. His home and car were repeatedly burglarized. At a strip club, thieves broke into his Lincoln Navigator and stole a briefcase stuffed with $245,000 and three $100,000 cashiers’ checks—though the briefcase was later found, with the money still inside. "I'm only going to be remembered as the lunatic who won the lottery," Whittaker said in a 2007 interview. "I'm not proud of that. I wanted to be remembered as someone who helped a lot of people." At that point, Whittaker said he still had plenty of money. How much remained at his death, and who might benefit from his estate, was not immediately clear on Tuesday. Whittaker was a self-made millionaire long before he won the lottery, having built construction businesses worth $17 million. A foundation started in his name spent $23 million building two churches in the years after his jackpot win, and his family donated food, clothing, and college scholarships to local students.

(More obituary stories.)

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