$45 Million Jackpot!

By Whetstone, Muriel L. | Ebony, September 1995 | Go to article overview

$45 Million Jackpot!


Whetstone, Muriel L., Ebony


Arthur and Julia Britton are like a million other hardworking Americans. They go to church on Sunday and work the remainder of the week. They're devoted to their only child and a host of relatives that include grandparents, parents and siblings. And like so many others, they've lived and learned their way through life's many challenges. But that's where the similarities end because, as winners of the Illinois State Lottery's $45 million jackpot, the Chicago couple are also learning how to live like millionaires. [We're learning] how rich, rich people work with money and how it's done," says Arthur Britton. "The concept is totally different than what you perceive when you're ordinary working-class people."

Up until a few months ago, the couple - both 43 - were just regular folks trying to stretch a dollar. Now, after a $1 investment, they are the single largest winners in the state's lottery history and are entitled to receive an annual check for $1.8 million, after taxes, for the next 20 years. "You know, your first reaction is really disbelief," says Julia Britton. "So we all gathered hands and prayed because we didn't know what was going to happen to us. It's really very scary, so we started praying that we would do the right thing."

Winning $45 million is enough to make a person's head spin, but Julia Britton, an elementary school teacher, and Arthur, a steel worker, aren't the types to do much head-spinning. "Rings, gold, diamonds - not me," says Arthur Britton. "I'm a simple person. I enjoy simple things."

The Brittons' good fortune has thrust them into the public spotlight and forced them to scramble to keep some semblance of privacy. They refuse, for example, to release their 18-year-old daughter's name and the names of family and friends to the media. Since winning, they've heard not only from strangers asking for handouts but also from long-lost relatives as well.

Desiree G. Rogers, director of the Illinois State Lottery, says she warns recent winners that "there will be people you have known, people who have been friends, people you've known all your life who will disappoint you because of the money. You have to be prepared for that because it's going to change your life. It's going to change the way some people think of you."

Rogers also advises winners to seek professional assistance with managing their new-found wealth. …

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