Walter Abernathy, Local Lottery Winner, Dead at 71

This story contains multiple inaccuracies. Please look at our most recent story, UPDATE: Walter Abernathy Alive in Montana, for updates.

Walter Abernathy, known for his luck in the lotto, died peacefully in his sleep last week, according to a friend of the family. He was 71. Abernathy is survived by his wife, four sons, and ten grandchildren.

In 2002, Abernathy became an instant local celebrity after winning the Mississippi State Lottery. He reported winnings of $400,000 to the media. Before that, Abernathy lived an honorable life. He served in the Vietnam War and received a Medal of Honor for his courage on the battlefield. Afterward, he returned to his hometown of Biloxi, MS, and took a job at Sweetie’s Sugar Plant. He swept floors for a while and was eventually promoted to manager. Abernathy was a valued employee for more than 30 years, before retiring with his lottery winnings.

Abernathy enjoyed fishing on his back pond. On a typical afternoon, he’d spend hours on the dock, angling for walleye and catfish, sipping on Budweiser, and whistling his favorite old-time tunes. Then he would mosey back to his front porch and slip into a delightful nap in his Adirondack chair.

Abernathy spent his weekends chatting with friends at Bell’s Diner on Main Street. He’d order the same thing every time, decaf coffee and a bran muffin. Most people that stepped into the diner seemed to know Abernathy. He would charmingly sit with a pile of Sweetie’s sugar packets and pass them out to anyone that stopped by. Abernathy was a fixture on Main Street. He’d spend hours in Ed’s Hardware Store, browsing the aisles in search of new tools for his workshop. According to the store’s owner, Eddy Edson, he would spend hours in there, tinkering with screwdrivers and rearranging items on the racks.

In 2008, when Nasty Abe’s Strip Club came under protest by a local church group, Abernathy made headlines for his support of the nightclub. “These women have a right to earn a living,” he was quoted in the Biloxi Free Press. The club, which is located next door to Ed’s Hardware Store, remains one of the town’s only sources for nightlife, in large part because of Abernathy’s support.

There will be a service at Bern and Berry’s funeral home on December 20 at 2pm.

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