Tyrone Curry was a custodian and coach at Evergreen for more than 30 years, before being elected to the Highline School Board.
Tyrone Curry, Sr., grew up in central Seattle and was raised by a single mom with eight brothers and sisters. Curry told The Seattle Times that his mother worked two to three jobs to raise her children and taught them to live modestly and conservatively.
“She kept us grounded,” he said. “She taught us to work for what we got and to work with what we got,” he said.
He attended Garfield High School, where he played basketball, football, track and baseball. He joined the Navy directly out of high school–serving in Vietnam–and shipped out to fight seven times. Curry had hoped to become a teacher, but life and kids interfered, and he never earned his degree. When he left college, he found a job as a teaching assistant at a Highline School District middle school, but when funding for that position was cut, he accepted a job in maintenance and moved over to the Evergreen Campus in 1979, where has been ever since.
Curry worked at Evergreen for more than 30 years as a custodian, and coached track and boys and girls basketball. He also worked two other jobs: as a seating host at Safeco Field and an assistant lead usher at Seattle Center.
In 2006, Curry won $3.4 million in the Washington State Lottery. But instead of leaving his job as a custodian and coach, he continued working. At 4 in the morning, he could have been sleeping instead of raising the American flag outside Evergreen. “Nah,” he said. “You need to be doing stuff. That’s my philosophy.”
Curry continued living in the same small house, installing a heat pump, siding and a new driveway. He also bought a new car. And that was it. “When people ask me, ‘How does it feel to be a millionaire?,’ I just tell them, ‘I’m just Joe Citizen,’” he said. “I do everything that I want to do and I still hang out with the same people I’ve hung out with for 60 years so, you know, it’s nothing different.”
But even before he won the lottery, one of the things Curry talked most about was the desire to build a real track — one that didn’t get muddy in winter or hard as rock in summer — for the young athletes he coaches at Evergreen Campus high schools in White Center.
In April 2011, Curry presented the school district with $40,000 to go towards a brand new track. He retired in June after more than 34 years with the district, and in November 2011 was elected to the Highline School Board.
- TheGrio’s 100 – “Tyrone Curry, school custodian and coach wins lottery, donates thousands to school” – January 31, 2012
- ESPN Outside the Lines – “Joe Citizen” – November 24, 2011
- KOMO4 – “Millionaire janitor must leave the job he loves” – November 17, 2011
- West Seattle Herald – “Evergreen track completed, thanks in large part to millionaire/janitor Tyrone Curry” – October 28, 2011
- The Seattle Times – “Janitor’s win helps build his school a new track” – July 8, 2011
- Daily Mail UK – “Is this the most humble man in America?” – July 8, 2011
- TODAY – “He won $3.4 million — then went back to work as a janitor” – July 6, 2011
- KING5 – “Millionaire janitor buys school new track” – April 15, 2011
- The Highline Times – “He’s the school janitor and a millionaire” – March 12, 2011