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Former Vallian Strikes It Rich

Jim and Carolyn McCullar with ceremonial check.- Photo by Daily Mail

Lottery winner Jim McCullar (fourth from right) posed with other members of the Turnage Drug Store family during the 55th Anniversary celebration in 1960. With him are (from left) Frances Turnage, Judy Mathis, Glynn Taylor, Bobby Turnage being held by Watkins Turnage, Martin Boydston, McCullar, Patricia Ellis Hendricks, Pharmacy student David Pitts, and Binnie Turnage. –Photo by Betty Shearer

By Jack Gurner

EPHRATA, Wash. – A former Water Valley resident made international headlines when he won half of the second-largest lottery jackpot in history.

Jim McCullar, a 1960 graduate of Water Valley High School, bought one of two winning tickets in the $380 million Mega Millions lottery in Washington state.

McCullar and his wife, Carolyn, appeared at a news conference in Olympia, Wash., last Thursday holding an oversized ceremonial check for $190 million. Reportedly he handed the check over to Carolyn as he had always done with checks over 41 years of marriage.

“I think $190 million is pretty good for this little, old Mississippi boy,” he said.  In Washington, no state taxes would apply. The lump sum payment would be $90 million after the 25 percent federal tax or the couple could elect to take the money in 26 annual installments. The McCullars said they hadn’t decided how to take the payment.

Water Valley folks who recognized McCullar as the skinny guy they went to high school with began to spread the news around town. Although most were 99 percent sure, it took a bit of detective work to verify that it was the same fellow who once worked  behind the counter at Turnage Drug Store.

McCullar appeared in a photo with members of the Turnage family and the Drug Store staff in the June 9, 1960 Herald. The occasion was the 55th anniversary of the business.

Binnie Turnage said that McCullar, “seemed to be glad to be here,” during his time at the drug store.

At the morning gathering Friday at Turnages, several of the regulars confessed that they were related and were looking forward to seeing “Cousin Jimmy” again. Mayor Larry Hart, who had been in on that discussion, contacted McCullar’s sister, Dottie, who is married to Jeff Clements and confirmed the story.

In the meantime, the Herald located McCullar’s biography on the website of the Real Estate firm where he worked. His bio lists WVHS and states he graduated in 1960. He also served in the Navy during the Vietnam War.

McCullar, 68, and his wife live in Ephrata, Wash., a town of fewer than 7,000 people. He credits his wife with reminding him to buy lottery tickets during a shopping trip to the Safeway.  The other ticket he bought was also a winner. It was worth $150.

The couple have a large extended family who will benefit from the lottery win: six children, including two from an earlier marriage; 23 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

“The legacy is going to go generation after generation after generation,” he said at the news conference. “We’re not going to blow this.”

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