Lottery winner's misfortune leads to Mormon conversion

Published: Wednesday, July 3 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

Clarence Jackson, right, talks with a politician at the Connecticut Capitol building.

Provided by Clarence Jackson

Lottery winner Clarence Jackson thought he had lost it all when he missed the deadline to claim his winnings — $5.8 million — by just three days.

And he did — as far as money goes.

But for the Connecticut native, losing may be the best thing that ever happened to him.

If it hadn't been for the lottery ticket that never was, Jackson, 40, said he wouldn’t have gained a groundswell in the political arena. He wouldn’t be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and he wouldn’t have had the chance to speak in stake conference in May 2007.

Jackson stood behind the pulpit holding a small white card high into the air for the crowd to see. It was his temple recommend.

“This is worth more than any lottery ticket, more than anything in the world,” Jackson said.

But, he didn’t always feel that way.

The lottery ticket

On Oct. 13, 1995, Jackson bought the would-be winning lottery ticket.

But it wasn’t until 1996 that he realized he had won, sparking a 15-year fight in the Connecticut Legislature to pass various bills that would allow Jackson to claim his substantial winnings.

After realizing the value of his “Quick Pick” lotto ticket on Oct. 13, 1996, Jackson was frantic to redeem the golden ticket.

It was the one-year mark of the claim deadline. As luck would have it, it was also a holiday weekend, and the lottery claims office was closed in observance of Columbus Day. Jackson was unaware that he could claim the ticket by going to the store where he had purchased it before midnight.

Depressed and desperate, Jackson, accompanied by his attorney, presented the ticket to the Connecticut Lottery Corporation on Oct. 16, 1996. Jackson claimed that extenuating circumstances had prevented him from claiming his ticket, according to a 2007 OLR Research Report from the Connecticut General Assembly.

He never received a dime.

The political realm

Jackson's in-and-out presence in the political sphere while fighting for his lottery ticket inspired him to consider a future run for a legislative seat. His only problem was deciding which party to represent.

"Prior to the ticket, I wanted to be a state senator. I love politics," Jackson said. "And here I am a high school dropout. I could never be in politics. But politics came to me, thanks to the ticket."

With experience as his educator, Jackson said many of his friends involved in politics have encouraged him to run for office in the future.

His political fight was his lifeblood for many years. That was until there was a knock at his door in March 2005.

It was two Mormon missionaries.

The conversion

Jackson’s mother, who had met with missionaries in years prior, was eager to invite the elders in.

Jackson himself was deeply religious.

"I was raised on the front seat of a Pentecostal church," he said.

But over the years, Jackson had become disaffected from any specific congregation. He instead found himself on a quest to find religious truth.

"The only way I would join is if it was 100 percent what I know is right. Not 99 percent, not 95 percent, I want to know 100 percent," Jackson said. "I will absolutely live for it and lay my life down for it."

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