Jimmie Smith was at his East Orange, New Jersey home one night watching the news on TV when he saw a report about lottery officials searching for the person who won $24 million in the New York lottery.
The ticket was about to expire and officials were hopeful the winner would come forward.
Smith decided to check his stack of old tickets just to be sure he wasn’t the lucky winner. Much to his surprise, he’d been sitting on $24 million for nearly a year.
“I ended up with a stack; a pile of tickets, including the one they were talking about on the news,” said Smith, a father of two and grandfather of 12. “I stood there for a minute thinking, ‘Do I see what I think I see?’ I had to stick my head out the window and breathe in some fresh air. I was in serious doubt. I really had to convince myself this was real.”
The 68-year-old retired security officer won the jackpot for a drawing on May 25, 2016. He came forward earlier this year to claim the prize and his name was released earlier this week by New York Lottery officials.
Smith said he’s played the lottery for nearly 50 years, but is never in a hurry to see if he’s won.
“I always told myself, ‘I’ll check them when I have the time,'” he said.
Smith elected to take his winnings in 26 yearly installments, but says he hasn’t decided what to do with the money. Once thing calm down, he says he’ll have a family discussion about the money.