SNELLVILLE, GA–After years of back-breaking ticket-buying, Teddy LeBarge's hard work finally paid off Monday, when the 36-year-old Snellville man won $193 million in the multi-state Mega Millions lottery, making him an inspiration to lottery players everywhere.
"I'm not going to be afraid to take risks anymore," said Teri Oswalt, a Paducah, KY, homemaker and one of the millions of Americans moved by LeBarge's remarkable rags-to-riches story. "I'm going to remember what Teddy LeBarge said: 'I just picked my numbers, and they finally done come up a winner.' If he can do it, so can I."
"This man didn't just hit the jackpot the first time he ever bought a ticket," said Carla Brooke of Batavia, NY. "He'd been going down to that gas station for years. It just goes to show you that there's no such thing as an overnight success."
The son of two factory workers, LeBarge grew up without the educational and economic opportunities most Americans take for granted. But that didn't stop him from striving to make something of himself.
"Yeah, I'd drive my old heap of junk down to the Amoco station near every Friday–Friday bein' payday–buy myself a carton of cigarettes, six-pack of Busch, and a few lottery tickets," LeBarge said. "Some days during the week, I'd get me some scratch-offs, too, but I always made sure to buy that MegaPick ticket, 'cause that's where you get the big money."
Despite going years without winning a single lottery jackpot, an undaunted LeBarge bravely soldiered on.
"There was sometimes I thought I wasn't ever going to win, but I kept going," LeBarge said. "I knew I had to if I ever wanted a big TV and a boat and a Humvee and things like that."
"I didn't let [not winning] get me down, 'cause I knew what I wanted," LeBarge continued. "Sometimes, it wasn't easy to scrounge up those couple dollars, like when I was unemployed from '92 to '95, but I did it. And here I am today–a goddamn millionaire. Shit."
LeBarge, who will receive his jackpot in annual installments of $8.4 million over the next 23 years, quit his job as an unemployment-check collector hours after finding out he was a winner.
"[LeBarge] was just a regular guy like me," said James Hale of Carthage, TN. "You don't need to be some fancy lawyer or doctor to win the lottery. You just need to be able to guess the same numbers as the ones that get picked a few days later."
LeBarge's tenacity has even inspired some who have never played the lottery before.
"I thought the lottery was for other people," said Ralph Fischer, a Medford, OR, retiree. "Now I realize that if I want a check for millions of dollars, I have to get out there and do what it takes. I'm going to make my dreams come true."
As for LeBarge's dreams, he said his plans include paying off his many debts, taking a vacation to "someplace exotic," and doing some serious partying.
"The world can't help but look up to him," said Brenda Kenyon, a Brookfield, WI, daycare worker who buys about 20 scratch-off lottery tickets a week. "It's so wonderful what he did, such a beautiful story. He truly is a lottery winner."
"I see a lot of myself in Teddy LeBarge," Kenyon added. "He's someone who wanted to have a lot of money with little to no effort. And I do, too. More than anything else in the world."