HATTIESBURG, MISS. – Tommy L. Jones, II, 67, of Hattiesburg is the $100,000 grand prize winner of United Way of Southeast Mississippi’s 2021 $100K Payday Raffle.
Jones’ winning ticket was selected from 2,241 tickets during the raffle held at the United Way office in downtown Hattiesburg March 16. The drawing aired live on WDAM Channel 7 and on Facebook and Instagram. A friend of Jones’, who only knew him by his first name, heard that his was the winning ticket and called Jones to tell him. The U.S. Marine Corps veteran and former truck driver said he was at home watching TV when he got the call.
“I was watching an episode of Gunsmoke…A guy [that I knew] called me to ask me if my name was Tommy Jones, II, and I asked him why, what did he want to know…And he told me he was questioning about it because if it had been my name that I had been a $100,000 winner,” said Jones.
“Then I finally got notification [from United Way] when they could break through, because everybody was calling me. My friend, she has six children, and every one of those girls called me and asked me if that’s you. You’d think they would know me after 30 years.”
Jones, who’s been participating in the United Way raffle for years, said it feels wonderful to finally be a winner. He said he plans to put the money to good use.
“I’m gonna pay 10 percent of my winnings to my church, and I’m gonna make a donation to the building fund of our church because we are in a building that has been there well over a hundred years…and I’m gonna do my part,” he said.
Jones is a Leakesville, Miss. native. His family moved to Hattiesburg in 1960, where he’s lived ever since. He went on to serve four years in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. When he returned from the war, Jones briefly attended The University of Southern Mississippi before starting a family. He became a trucker to support his family, which he did for many years until he became disabled.
Jones said since then he’s not been able to work, so winning the $100K Raffle is a godsend. In addition to supporting his church, Jones said, “Half of what I get, after taxes, will go to my son, and he can establish something for his son out of that.”
United Way of Southeast Mississippi saw its highest level of ticket sales than ever before from this year’s $100K Raffle, which CEO Tracie Fowler said was a huge need since the organization’s annual workplace campaign was down in 2020. The raffle is a major fundraiser for the nonprofit.
“Because the pandemic affected the income of a lot of our local corporate partners and donors this past year, there was a lot of pressure for our organization to make sure this year’s Payday Raffle was a success,” said Fowler. “We are grateful to everyone who purchased a ticket because their participation helped us meet our goal and will continue to help thousands more in our community throughout the year.”
Jones said knowing that the proceeds from the raffle go to support several different nonprofits serving nearby communities was a big part of why he’s participated every year.
“That was one of the reasons that drew me to United Way initially is that fundraiser and the way that they work in the community. Anytime that I can be a part of something to help as big as United Way, I’m all for it.”