Tennessee lottery winner: A firm believer in tithing at church
John and Lisa Robinson from Munford, Tenn., will be getting a lump sum payout of about $327 million. They don't plan to quit their jobs.
(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
The small-town Tennessee couple that bought one of three magic tickets splitting the world-record $1.6 billion Powerball jackpot says they don't plan to quit their jobs or buy a new house.
Their daughter, however, wants a horse.
After appearing on national television, John Robinson and wife Lisa went to the Tennessee lottery headquarters in Nashville on Friday to have their winning ticket verified by lottery officials. The couple's lump sum payout is about $327 million after buying the ticket for Wednesday night's drawing at a grocery store in their west Tennessee hometown of Munford, population 6,000. Two other winning tickets were bought in California and Florida.
At a news conference Friday, the Robinsons said they won't stop working and won't make any wild purchases. They'll pay off their mortgage and their daughter's student loans, but have no desire to move from their gray, one-story house in a close-knit community into a luxurious compound somewhere.
Robinson said earlier Friday that they would help certain friends, give to the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, and donate to their church.
"I'm a firm believer in tithing to my church," Robinson said in an appearance on NBC's "Today" show. Tithing means giving one-tenth of your earnings to church or charity.
Lisa works at a dermatologist's office. John is a warehouse supervisor. Both plan to return to work Monday, they said. Friends and neighbors say the Robinsons are a hard-working, responsible family with the ability to humbly deal with their new fortune.
"That's what we've done all our lives, is work," John Robinson said. "You just can't sit down and lay down and not do nothing anymore. Because how long are you going to last? We do want to enjoy a little bit of our earnings, and maybe invest a little bit of it so our son and daughter will have it and they'll never need anything again."
No one has produced the other winning tickets, which overcame odds of 1 in 292.2 million to land on all six numbers at a Publix supermarket in Melbourne Beach, Florida, and a 7-Eleven in Chino Hills, California.
In California, any winnings not claimed within a year automatically go to the state's schools. Florida gives winners six months to come forward before transferring 80 percent of unclaimed prizes to an educational trust fund, and 20 percent into a pool for future lottery prizes.
As The Christian Science Monitor reported, some states allow lottery winners to remain anonymous due to the hardships faced.
Those who unexpectedly come into such a massive sum of money are often at the mercy of conmen and cheats. Sometimes, the consequences are even worse...
Delaware, Kansas, Ohio, and Maryland are just some of the states that allow anonymity. Other states allow winners to send proxies, usually attorneys, to collect their prizes. Massachusetts, Connecticut, Colorado, and Vermont operate on this system.
Robinson said he reached out to his brother for help finding lawyers and financial planners before deciding to take the winnings in a single lump sum of nearly $328 million, rather than let the lottery invest the prize and pay him 30 annual installments totaling an estimated $533 million.
Why pass up on a certain income totaling more than $200 million?
"We're going to take the lump sum, because we're not guaranteed tomorrow," Robinson said. "We just wanted a little piece of the pie. Now we're real grateful we got the big piece of the pie."
The Robinsons said they have no plans to leave Munford, the town about 25 miles north of Memphis where they both went to high school.
Tennessee Lottery executive Rebecca Hargrove said the couple would get a "small check today for a few million," and collect the full lump sum in about 10 business days.
The couple has a son, Adam, who works as an electrician, and a daughter, Tiffany, who lives nearby in her late grandparents' home.
Tiffany said she also wants a horse.
"My first thought was, I've always wanted a horse," she said. "I get a horse now. My dad always said, "When I win the lottery.'"
Robinson carried the precious slip of paper to New York City and back before showing up at Tennessee's lottery headquarters. Their lawyer went with the family, as did their rescue dog, Abby, who snoozed through most of the excitement.
Lawyers who have represented other winners advise against going public until they have made plans with experts in tax law, financial planning, privacy, security and other safeguards to protect themselves and their winnings.
The Robinsons did ask for privacy Friday.
Munford's mayor, Dwayne Cole, had wished openly Thursday for an investment in the town, whose annual budget is $3.67 million. He said Munford's needs include fire department equipment, an indoor athletic facility for local schools and a community gymnasium.
On Friday, Cole told the AP that they are not the kind to squander their money.
"They're small-town people who appreciate community, appreciate family values. They appreciate hard work. They are responsible. They've always lived within their means," said Cole, who owns an auto parts store in town.
"They have to understand, though, this is a big deal. This is not just a big deal for Munford. This is a big deal nationwide and worldwide. They understand that, I think. I hope they do," Cole added. "I believe they can deal with it. It may be totally overwhelming."
Robinson said he bought the winning ticket at his wife's request at the family-owned Naifeh's grocery on his way home from work Wednesday night, then went to sleep. His wife stayed up to watch the drawing, and started "hollering and screaming through the hallway saying, 'You need to check these numbers. You need to check these numbers,'" he said.
He did, four times, then thought: "Well, I'll believe it when the news comes on in the morning."
As for buying a bigger, more resplendent house, it appears to come down to practicality for John Robinson.
"Big houses are nice," he said, "But also you gotta clean 'em."