Winning the lottery should always be a joyous occasion. Still, for many African-American winners, it has led to more harm than good – with several even losing their life over their winnings.
In the spirit of the newly won $2.04 billion Powerball grand prize in California, The Shade Room takes an in-depth look at six Black lottery jackpot winners, their stories of sudden wealth, and the drama that came with it.
And roughly 70 percent of all lottery winners, white or Black, lose it all within five years, regardless of how much their luck earns them, statistics show.
It’s important to note that a recent The Shade Room‘s report found that the lottery has been systemically racist in the way it aggressively markets itself in Black and low-income communities.
Also, The Shade Room does not encourage or endorse the lottery,and urges anyone with a gambling problem to call 1-800-522-4700/check out the National Council on Problem Gambling, where help can be found state by state.
Abraham Shakespeare hit it large in the Florida state lotto for $30 million in 2006. Shakespeare lived it up for a couple of years, almost having spent all his money until he suddenly disappeared in 2006. His body was found under a concrete slab in April pic.twitter.com/wSC4gV6Y98
— wahali I have no idea 🚶 (@Iceberggx) June 14, 2022
1. Abraham Shakespeare
The tragic story of Abraham Shakespeare began well enough, after he found himself winning $31 million in the Florida state lottery back in 2006.
He opted for the lump-sum payment, meaning he’d take home less overall than if he had taken it in installments, and ended up taking home $17 million after taxes. Still not too shabby. The drama began almost immediately for Mr. Shakespeare, who friends and family described as loving, generous and trustworthy, perhaps to a fault.
Shortly after winning, a co-worker accused him of stealing the winning ticket, and he was taken to court. The judge ultimately ruled in Shakespeares’ favor and allowed him to keep his lottery winnings.
Despite the newfound wealth, or perhaps because of it, Shakespeares’ life continued to spiral out of control.
He eventually befriended a white woman named Dorice Donegan, “Dee Dee” Moore, who had promised to help him sort out his money so he wouldn’t blow through it overnight.
But rather than help him, she was secretly bilking money out of him and depleting his riches.
In 2009, his family declared him missing, and in January 2010, his body was found buried under a concrete slab in the backyard of an acquaintance. Moore stood trial in Tampa in 2012 for the shooting death of lottery winner Abraham Shakespeare sevenadoingd was eventually found guilty.
She’s currently serving a life sentence.
2. Cynthia Stafford
Stafford was struggling to raise five children and caring for her elderly father when she won a whopping $129 million in the California lottery in 2007, according to Lotto Analyst.
Before winning, she had described herself as a moderately regular lottery player. After taxes, she took home a payout of $67 million, according to reports at the time. The website reports that Stafford was generous – perhaps to a fault – and actually split the money with her father and brother equally.
She, of course, splurged a bit, as any lottery winner would. She purchased a 4,000 sq ft. home in upscale Pacific Palisades. Next, she got a new car, a used Mercedes-Benz R-class.
Stafford also hired a personal trainer and took a trip to Paris with some of her winnings before starting to give back and donating to charities she had admired for years.
She has since become an entrepreneur and philanthropist within the Los Angeles area. Stafford is the CEO of her own production company, Queen Nefertiti Productions, and is actively involved with Geffen Playhouse – a not-for-profit performing arts theater in L.A.
She admits she still plays the lottery to this day.
3. Jonathan Vargas
In 2008, 19-year-old Jonathan Vargas of Gaston, South Carolina, won a $35 million Powerball Jackpot. Vargas, the first winner from South Carolina, picked the majority of his numbers based on the ages or birthdays of his family members.
He opted to take home a lump sum totaling about $17.3 million after taxes. With the money, he and some partners created “Wrestlicious,” an all-female wrestling promotion. He even promised to buy his mother a home with the winnings.
Out of the many young lottery winners that have appeared over the years, only a few seem to have sensible plans for the fortunes they are lucky enough to win.
The then-teen seemed to be unbelievably mature in his post-win plans. However, he eventually lost it all through a series of misplaced decisions and spending massive amounts of money on great clothes and jewelry.
After purchasing a mansion, Jonathan invested his money in countless schemes that never seemed to pan out. The last straw for Jonathan’s wealth arrived in the form of a television show Jonathan wanted to launch.
Lotto Analyst described reports he has largely remained out of the spotlight in recent years.
4. Doris Murray
Doris Murray was a loving 42-year-old mother-of-four living in South Carolina when she was blessed with a $5 million winning lottery ticket.
Murray’s story is another tragic and cautionary one: in 2008, her ex-boyfriend Derrick Lorenzo Stanley, of East Dublin, stabbed her to death before she could even enjoy her winnings.
Authorities say Murray’s family called police after they saw 51-year-old Derrick Stanley leaving her home with blood on his face. Stanley was caught after leading police on a car chase.
At the time of the case, WLTX reported an investigator posited the two may have argued after she told him she wanted to break off their relationship and be friends.
The sheriff for Laurens County says Murray “lived by meager standards” despite her winnings after winning the prize on her birthday in April 2007.
According to the outlet, she chose to take it in annual payments of $172,000 over 20 years to set up a trust fund for her grandchildren.
The lottery said the money would continue to be paid to whoever is in Murray’s will.
Stanley was ultimately charged with the death of Murray.
5. Solomon Jackson Jr.
In 2009, retired South Carolina state employee Solomon Jackson Jr. became the winner of a $259.9 million Powerball jackpot,
The Columbia native spent just two bucks on the lottery and was all smiles during a press conference as he claimed the $260 million Powerball jackpot.
“For once in my life, I really experienced the old saying, pinch me to see if I’m still alive, or if this is real,” Solomon Jackson Jr. said.
At the time, South Carolina Education Lottery officials said the Powerball jackpot was the largest ever won with a ticket bought in the state, which had the nation’s fifth-highest unemployment rate.
Jackson shared few details about himself or his money plans but revealed he was married and had ten siblings. However, he did not disclose how many children he had or provide his age.
He also didn’t reveal whether he would take his winnings in a $129 million lump sum or yearly payments over 30 years, which would have netted him $88 million more after taxes.
He stated he had been an assistant supervisor for the state Revenue Department until early retirement in 2000 and was using his free time to return to school to get a degree from Midlands Technical College.
6. Bryon Woods
Perhaps the happiest story belongs to former mechanic Mr. Bryon Woods and his wife. The couple who won $49 million in the Texas lottery in July 2003.
He decided upon the annuity, which provided him $2.5 million upfront and a payout of just shy of $2 million per year for the ensuing 24 years.
Woods took his winnings and opened up a historical motel in Texas called the Tee Pee Motel. He brought the property for $60,000 and made $1.6 million in renovations.
The couple initially didn’t even know they’d won the jackpot until a telephone call from a family member told them the winning ticket was purchased at the store where they had bought their ticket. Bryon then reportedly checked the numbers on his computer.
“I started screaming and hollering, ‘We’re millionaires! We’re millionaires!'” he said.
Bryon, then 38, quit his job as a diesel mechanic, and Barbara, 46, did the same to the J&K’s Corner store where she worked.
At the time, they told the press that they wanted to provide college scholarships for local students.