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West Virginia Ticket-Holder Wins Christmas Jackpot - 2002-12-27

The single-ticket winner of one of the largest lottery prizes in the United States says he plans to give 10 percent of his winnings to his church. The winner of the multi-state Powerball lottery came from one of the poorest U.S. states, West Virginia.

West Virginia Governor Bob Wise invoked the holiday spirit in declaring his state's pride in its newest famous son, Andrew Jackson Whittaker.

"Yesterday was Christmas. I'm happy to say that Santa has chosen to stay in West Virginia," said Mr. Wise. "And certainly Santa dropped a great gift yesterday and today because we have, I'm happy to say, in West Virginia today, the largest Powerball winner in history is a West Virginian."

The 55-year-old Mr. Whittaker held the winning numbers for a Powerball jackpot of nearly $315 million. He has opted to take a single lump sum payment, which would total more than $111 million after taxes.

Mr. Whittaker told journalists he believes in divine intervention. "I just wanted to say thank God for letting me pick the right numbers, or letting the machine pick the right numbers, for me. And I want to say thanks to all my family that believes in me, and everything," he said. "And as for your question of that I'm going to do with the money, I'm going to pay tithes on it - that's the first thing I'm going to do."

He said he plans to give 10 percent of his winnings to three Church of God churches, but said he wouldn't reveal which ones until he has talked to them first.

Mr. Whittaker says he also wants to use some of the money to expand his businesses, and help 25 people he recently had to lay off from the several construction and public works companies he owns.

The new Powerball winner said he is content with his own life and doesn't expect too many big changes.

"I've been blessed my whole life," he emphasized. "It's really going to excite my daughter and my granddaughter. There're the ones that's going to be spending the money. I get my enjoyment out of them spending the money."

Mr. Whittaker said he has been eyeing a helicopter for the past few years, and now may just go ahead and buy it. And, he added, the family is going to New York City to celebrate.

Tickets for Powerball, the largest U.S. lottery game, are sold in 23 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.