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Portal couple claims $275 million jackpot

Bobby Harris: 'We are blessed'

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Posted: February 25, 2008 4:58 p.m.
Updated: March 11, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Portal couple claims $275 million jackpot

What would you do?

On their way back home from Atlanta Monday, Robert and Tonya Harris not only felt like millionaires – they were.

            The couple won $275 million Friday in the Mega Millions multistate drawing, with Robert Harris using his grandchildren's birth dates to pick the winning numbers — 7, 12, 13, 19, 22 and the Mega Ball number 10.

            Speaking to the Statesboro Herald while en route back to Portal, where the couple lives in a mobile home near Lake Collins (also known as Deloach's Lake), Robert Harris was tired. Tonya Harris was sleeping.

            The weekend was a whirlwind of activity, he said, admitting the exhilaration of winning the enormous jackpot was exhausting.

            Oh, but it was fun, too, he said.

            The iron worker told Georgia Lottery officials he learned he had won the lottery Saturday morning when his stepdaughter called to tell him someone in Portal won the Mega Millions.

            When he checked his ticket, "“I sat there and cried for a minute,” he said.

            The couple hired a babysitter and headed to Augusta over the weekend, then to Atlanta, where they spent the night at the Ritz-Carlton.

            By 2 p.m. Monday, however, Georgia Lottery spokesman Tandi Reddick had yet to hear from the couple. Less than two hours later, however, lottery officials were handing a huge ceremonial check to the lucky pair.

            During the ceremony, Robert Harris said "It's awesome. We have been very blessed."

            The two reside a couple miles from Portal, in a subdivision alongside Lake Collins that consists mainly of mobile homes.

            That will change, Harris said, sharing plans to build a house somewhere in the Portal area.

            Kayla Albanese, who was left to babysit the Harris grandchildren in their home, said people are calling and appearing out of the woodwork to offer the winners deals on homes, cars and other things.

            "People keep offering stuff," she said Monday. "New houses, cars. Business people and contractors are calling and coming by. People are taking pictures ... they have been on CNN and Good Morning America..."

            The Harris couple told lottery officials they had not decided what they will do with the money beyond buying a new four-wheel drive, a Mercedes, an RV and planning a trip to Disney World for the six grandchildren.

            "My new RV and I are gong to take them," Harris said.

            They also plan to send those grandchildren to college, Tonya Harris said.

            But the money won't interfere with who they are, she said, wearing warmup pants and flip-flops Monday. "We're not gonna change. I'm too country."

            When someone asked her how it feels to win a $275 million jackpot, Ms. Harris joked "Once I start spending it, I'll let you know!"

            It’s the largest single jackpot in the history of the 15-year-old Georgia Lottery and the third largest in Mega Millions history, lottery officials said

            The couple chose to take the one-time cash option, which is an estimated $167,694,000.

            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.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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