From Rags To Riches: The Journey Of The First Millionaire Winner On ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?’

When the popular game show ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’ first hit the airwaves, it captivated audiences worldwide with its high-stakes questions and nail-biting suspense. Millions tuned in to watch contestants vie for the coveted million-dollar prize, but it wasn’t until March 29, 2000, that the show crowned its very first millionaire winner.

The Name: John Carpenter

The lucky contestant who etched his name in the show’s history books was John Carpenter, a 31-year-old IRS agent from Hamden, Connecticut. With his easy-going demeanor and confident attitude, John captured the hearts of viewers and host Regis Philbin as he climbed the ladder of questions, one step closer to the elusive million-dollar question.

The Winning Moment

John Carpenter’s memorable journey to becoming the first millionaire on the show reached its pinnacle when he faced the final question for a staggering $1 million. The question was a nail-biter: “Which of these U.S. presidents appeared on the television series ‘Laugh-In’?” The options were:

A) Lyndon B. Johnson
B) Richard Nixon
C) Jimmy Carter
D) Gerald Ford

John had the ‘phone a friend’ lifeline left and he used it to call his dad. He didn’t call his father for advice on the final question however, he just wanted to let his Dad know that he was about to win the show and become a millionaire.  He then confidently chose “B) Richard Nixon” as his answer, and to the delight of the audience and viewers, he was correct! The studio erupted in cheers and applause as John Carpenter made history by becoming the first millionaire winner on ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’

The Aftermath

John’s triumph on the show catapulted him into the spotlight, and he instantly became a celebrity. He was invited to make numerous talk show appearances and was featured in various media outlets. Despite his newfound fame and fortune, John remained humble and down-to-earth, emphasizing that he didn’t intend to change his lifestyle drastically.

Following his win, John opted to receive his prize money in a lump sum, taking home $1,250,000 after taxes. He used a portion of his winnings to pay off his student loans and mortgage, but he also generously donated to charitable causes close to his heart.

Legacy and Impact

John Carpenter’s victory on ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’ set the stage for countless contestants who dreamed of winning the million-dollar prize. His achievement added to the show’s allure and boosted its ratings, making it a cultural phenomenon in the early 2000s.

The success of ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’ also spurred the creation of numerous international versions of the show, spreading the excitement and thrill of the game to audiences around the globe.


The story of John Carpenter, the first millionaire winner on ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?,’ remains an iconic moment in the history of television game shows. His journey from being an IRS agent to answering a million-dollar question captured the hearts of viewers and cemented the show’s place in pop culture.

John Carpenter’s win not only transformed his life but also inspired countless others to dream big and take chances. As the show’s legacy endures, new contestants continue to test their knowledge and courage, hoping to follow in the footsteps of the IRS agent who turned his life around with the right answer to one million-dollar question.