Couple who won $275 million vows to stay simple

Couple who won $275 million vows to stay simple
Tonya and Robert Harris look at a pile of cardboard money during a press conference announcing him the winner of the Mega Millions jackpot.
ATLANTA (AP) - When asked what he plans to do as a brand new multimillionaire, lottery winner Robert Harris answered simply: "Live happy."

The 47-year-old iron worker used to have to work overtime just to make ends meet for 20 years. He and his wife, Tonya, lived in a trailer while dreaming of building a big house in the country where their two children and six grandchildren could visit.

Now that's all in the past.

The couple won Friday's $275 million Mega Millions jackpot - the largest prize won by a single player in Georgia Lottery history. With it, they plan to build that dream house, pay for their grandchildren's college education and shower their family with presents.

"They'll get anything they want," Robert Harris told a crowd of reporters gathered at the lottery's downtown Atlanta headquarters Monday afternoon.

The Harrises aren't big lottery players, but Robert Harris said something told him to buy tickets using the dates of his grandchildren's birthdays. He had his wife buy two $1 tickets at Clyde's Market in Portal, the town of 600 where the couple live.

They didn't even watch the Mega Millions drawing, thinking there was no chance they'd win the lottery. Tonya Harris' daughter, Felicia, is the one who delivered the good news with a phone call late Friday night.

First thing Saturday morning, Robert Harris let his boss know he wouldn't be coming back to work.

"It's very easy to walk away," he said.

The couple spent Sunday night at the Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta's tony Buckhead neighborhood before arriving at the lottery headquarters to claim their prize. They planned to buy a brand-new truck Tuesday morning.

But Tonya Harris said the money doesn't mean they'll stop being the simple folks they've always been.

"We're not gonna change," she said, wearing warmup pants and flip-flops. "I'm too country."

Lottery officials say the couple decided to take the lump sum, which is $167 million before taxes.

Billy Hodges, general manager of Clyde's Market, said news of the jackpot win set the tiny town abuzz. Portal is about 70 miles northwest of Savannah.

"It happened to a nice lady; I think this lady really deserves it," Hodges said.

A year ago, Ed Nabors, from Rocky Face, Ga., won half of a $390 million jackpot - the richest lottery prize in U.S. history. The other half was claimed by Elaine and Harold Messner, a couple from Cape May County in New Jersey.

Mega Millions tickets are sold in California, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas, Virginia and Washington state. The twice-weekly drawing is done in Atlanta.