Vietnam Vet Captures First Top Prize on Classic Crossword Scratch-off

Michael Higgs - Classic Crossword_webMichael Higgs of Silver Spring had his wife Barbara at his side when he claimed the first $50,000 top prize on our Classic Crossword scratch-off.

Silver Spring man claims $50,000 win

A Vietnam War veteran who has spent his post-military life as a teacher and Maryland Renaissance Festival enthusiast is the Maryland Lottery’s latest big winner.

Michael Higgs of Silver Spring is the first to claim a $50,000 top prize on the Classic Crossword scratch-off game. The 70-year-old purchased – but didn’t scratch – his lucky ticket on Nov. 7 while at Laurel Towne Centre Shell in Laurel. The U.S. Navy vet was on a mission, heading home from a Disabled American Veterans meeting, so the scratch-off had to wait.

On Nov. 10, the day before Veterans Day, Michael had some free time and pulled out the scratch-off. He was scheduled to give a speech about his experience in Vietnam at a school in Halethorpe and scratched the ticket off while eating breakfast near the school.

“I thought I won $10,000, and when I went and checked it, the message said, ‘Cash at Lottery,’ ” Michael said.

After giving his speech, he came to Lottery headquarters in Baltimore and found out he had a $50,000 winning scratch-off! Alas, he didn’t have the correct paperwork with him to complete his claim. Michael and his wife Barbara returned to headquarters on Nov. 17, eager to claim his big prize.

The Montgomery County resident served as a photographer in the Navy for four years, including one year in Vietnam spanning 1968 and 1969. “I carried two cameras and a .38 under my armpit for 365 days and a wakeup – the wakeup is the day you catch that big bird home,” he said.

After concluding his military service, Michael taught in Baltimore County and currently is a substitute teacher in Montgomery County. For 39 years, he has performed as the “King of Swords” at the Maryland Renaissance Festival and sold a wide variety of costumes. He is also Commander of Rockville Memorial Chapter #12 of the Disabled American Veterans.

Michael said he has no special plans for his prize money other than paying bills and investing it. “I don’t want to spend it all before I have it,” he said.

Laurel Towne Centre Shell located at 13200 Laurel Bowie Blvd. is a winner as well. For selling the top-prize ticket, the retailer will earn a $500 bonus from the Lottery. The Classic Crossword game launched in July; three of its four $50,000 top prizes and nine $10,000 prizes are still awaiting discovery at Lottery retailers.