Man Who Took Religious 'Vow of Poverty' Wins $259.8 Million Powerball Jackpot

roy cockrum
Roy Cockrum wins the 9.8 million Powerball Jackpot, considered to be Tennessee's largest lottery prize in history. |

A Tennessee man who took a vow of poverty as part of his membership with a religious organization, claimed the largest lottery prize in the state's history, worth $259.8 million, last Thursday.

Roy Cockrum, known as Brother Roy for his service with The Society of Saint John the Evangelist, embraced the organization's rule of taking several vows in order to live a selfless life. Now that he has won the lottery, Cockrum intends to give a large portion of his money to charities and religious organizations.

"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," said Cockrum in a statement, reports NBC affiliate WCYB news. "It gives great perspective … I have no doubt that I am one of the luckiest people in the world. I am so grateful. I am so blessed."

Cockrum, who will accept a lump sum payment of $115 million, says his new job will be to ensure his money goes towards blessing others in need. In addition, Cockrum intends to use the majority of the money to start a foundation that will support performing arts organizations across the country, after he gives ten percent of his total amount as tithes.

During a press conference, Cockrum admitted that he did not have great expectations for his lottery ticket as he was taking care of his ailing mother the moment he first checked his ticket.

"It's a hard thing to process; your brain doesn't want to believe it. 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," said Cockrum.

He added, "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!'…"

Cockrum noted that he got up and put the winning ticket in his wallet and went about his day as he walked around the University of Tennessee Medical Center with his mother that morning, carrying the ticket for hours until he finally claimed the prize.

Having worked for 20 years as an actor and stage manager for theater and TV productions, Cockrum says he also plans to keep enough money for a pension fund.

As part of his membership in the society, Cockrum also took a vow of lifelong celibacy and obedience. The society is an Episcopal organization and characterizes itself as a monastic experience.

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