Knoxville man comes forward as $259 million Powerball jackpot winner

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A Knoxville man has come forward as the winner of last month's $259 million jackpot lottery.

58-year-old Roy Cockrum presented his winning Powerball ticket to lottery officials Thursday. Once the winning ticket was verified, he claimed the “cash option” prize. After taxes, the take-home prize amount is $115,147,525.50.

It's the largest prize ever won in Tennessee Lottery history.

According to PR firm Moxley Carmichael, Cockrum is a former actor and monk. He attended went to West High School and moved back to Knoxville in 2009.

Read the news release:


Knoxville businessman, former actor and monk claims ‘cash option’

Roy Cockrum, 58, of Knoxville, Tennessee, presented the winning Powerball ticket to Tennessee Education Lottery officials today, matching all six numbers selected on June 11. The winning ticket was verified, and the “cash option” prize was claimed.

After taxes, the take-home prize amount is $115,147,525.50. This is the largest prize ever won in Tennessee Lottery history.

“It’s a hard thing to process; your brain doesn’t want to believe it,” Cockrum said. “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.”

Cockrum was born and raised in Knoxville but left Tennessee after graduating from West High School to earn an acting degree from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and to pursue a career in the theater. After more than 20 years spent working as an actor and stage manager for theater and television, Cockrum became Brother Roy as he followed a call to 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. “It gives great perspective.”

In 2009, Cockrum returned to live in Knoxville in order to take care of his aging parents. He is single and self-employed.

As to what he plans to do with the prize, Cockrum said:

“I have received wonderful counsel from my advisor, Marshall Peterson, of Holbrook Peterson Smith PLLC in Knoxville. After setting aside enough savings to create my ‘pension fund,’ I 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 reflected on the time since June 12, when he first realized he had the winning lottery ticket, until claiming his prize on July 3 – a long 22 days.

“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.”

All jokes aside, after winning the largest prize in Tennessee Lottery history, this Knoxvillian realizes just how lucky he is.

“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.”

Cockrum concluded, “I have received great counsel, and I will continue working very hard to make sure every single penny of this prize is a blessing to anyone it touches.”

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