Originally created 01/22/05

Couple claims lottery jackpot



ATLANTA - Margaret Jones isn't looking for any new friends now that she and her husband, James, are suddenly millionaires.

"If you didn't know us before, sorry," she said.

The couple and about two dozens friends, relatives and lodge brothers drove with them Friday to pick up their winnings from the $130 million Mega Millions Jackpot. They opted for the cash payout of $77.7 million before taxes (about $53 million after taxes).

The Washington, Ga., couple won the second-largest payout since the Georgia Lottery Corp. started business in 1996. Stephen Moore collected $88.9 million in September 2003.

But the Joneses have modest plans. First, buy an expensive meal while in Atlanta, get Mr. Jones a Chevrolet truck, get the local Shrine Club a permanent lodge and help their adult children buy houses. One child is in the process of buying a house; a second lives "in a small trailer;" and the third is single and living with his parents.

The sons help Mr. Jones operate a muffler-repair shop in the town of 4,000 north of Augusta. They'll inherit it one day, but Mr. Jones intends to keep running it himself while Mrs. Jones continues making her mail route.

"In Wilkes County, we don't have that much to do," she said, explaining to reporters that she might as well work.

Mr. Jones does plan one change at the shop. "We'll probably hire someone else to do the greasy stuff," he said.

They don't want to move into any of the stately antebellum homes in downtown Washington because they enjoy the privacy of their rural home. Plus, Mrs. Jones said, "It's paid for."

Maybe they'll look for a getaway place in Daytona, Fla., site of their honeymoon, annual family vacations and many memories.

They only paid off the loan on the muffler shop nine months ago, with a cookout and note-burning celebration. Until then, money had been pretty tight, and the family had its ups and downs over the years.

Wearing faded jeans and work shirts, the couple held hands as they were introduced to a news conference at the lottery headquarters. Mr. Jones' lip quivered and his eyes teared up once or twice. Mrs. Jones grinned at her friends and pumped her fist.

Even after receiving the oversized mock check Friday, Mrs. Jones couldn't believe the change in fortune.

"I still think we're dreaming," she said.

Reach Walter Jones at (404) 589-8424 or walter.jones@morris.com.

Related links:

Couple is quiet on jackpot win

$130 million winning ticket causes buzz



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