NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A Knoxville man is a new multi-millionaire.
Roy Cockrum, 58, of Knoxville, presented his winning $259.8 million Powerball ticket at the Tennessee lottery offices on Thursday, July 3, 22 days after his winning numbers were drawn. Cockrum took the lump sum option, and after taxes, he will take home $115,147,525.50.
This is the largest prize ever won in Tennessee Lottery history.
Cockrum spoke briefly with reporters when he claimed his prize, and issued a press release through public relations company Moxley-Carmichael.
"It's a hard thing to process; your brain doesn't want to believe it," Cockrum said in the press release. "I was in a rush to take Mom to a medical appointment when I first checked the ticket. I saw the Powerball match and three winning numbers and thought, 'Wow! $500! You never win that much on Powerball.' I felt really lucky.
"But then – wait a minute, wait a minute – there's another number, and finally I realized I hit the jackpot. It 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. I walked around University of Tennessee Medical Center all that morning with a $259.8 million winner in my pocket."
His small Knoxville neighborhood is buzzing with excitement.
"I think it's great," said Phyllis Blair, Cockrum's neighbor. "To know it's right down the street from me is even greater!"
Some neighbors said they will buy a ticket from here on out.
"To know that he even lives in Knoxville is amazing to me. I don't know of anyone that has won anything as far as that goes or not," said Greg Browning, Cockrum's neighbor. "But to be right behind me, it makes me wish I would have gone and bought a lottery ticket now!"
Cockrum is a West High School graduate who left Knoxville to attend Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. He spent more than 20 years working as an actor and stage manager, then became Brother Roy when he entered religious service
with The Society of Saint John the Evangelist, an Episcopal religious community in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
"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," Cockrum said in the press release. "It gives great perspective."
Cockrum came back to Knoxville in 2009 to help his aging parents. He is single and self-employed.
Cockrum got financial advice before claiming the prize and coming forward. He said he will set aside enough money for his "pension fund" then "will be making large gifts to a long list of charities, including a number of religious organizations and local charities. Everyone should know that my list of charities has already been set."
"Finally, the majority of the prize has been designated to go into a foundation 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. My father passed away in 2010, and essentially, I am following his rule about money management: Tithe a tenth, save a tenth and spend the rest wisely."
Cockrum said it's been an interesting few weeks since it was announced a lottery winner was in Knoxville.
"It has been interesting going around Knoxville these past couple of weeks while we prepared to receive this prize," he said. "Several local news anchors have declared us to be 'best friends.' Everywhere I went people were talking about the Powerball winner, not knowing I was standing right in front of them. Many people said, 'I heard it's a UPS guy.' Another lady had heard 'for sure' that it was a young woman with a baby that bought the winning ticket. For the record, I do not work for UPS, and I am not a young woman with a baby."
And would you believe, this is not Cockrum's first big prize?
"By the way, Publishers Clearing House Prize Patrol came to my house many years ago with the balloons and the champagne. The size of the prize wasn't as life changing as this one, but I have no doubt that I am one of the luckiest people in the world. I am so grateful. I am so blessed."