Remembering Millard Fuller

By Erin Rank, President and CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles and Julie Spezia Executive Director of Housing California and Habitat for Humanity local and global volunteer

Millard Fuller was a humble guy for someone who started a worldwide phenomenon called Habitat for Humanity. He used to tell a funny personal story about standing in line at the airline ticket counter when a colleague introduced him to someone as the founder of Habitat for Humanity and after a curious pause the man replied, “You’re not Jimmy Carter.”

President and Mrs. Carter certainly helped to raise Habitat for Humanity’s profile, but the dynamic Fuller had already laid the groundwork for an organization that has done more to engage civilization around the creation of affordable homes than any other non-profit in the world.

We remember him and hope you’ll take a moment to appreciate this humble man with a God sized vision.

Millard Fuller was a deeply committed Christian who preached the “Theology of the Hammer,” a belief that people from all walks of life can join together around the notion that every person deserves a simple, decent place to live. Fuller encouraged everyone to pick up a hammer and participate as part of the solution and Habitat for Humanity build sites have become a unique place where priests, imams and rabbis, CEO’s and students, the wealthy and people with disabilities are seen building side-by-side as part of the affordable housing solution.

After a brief flirtation with capitalism and financial success that left a self-admitted void in his soul, Millard and his wife Linda became a part of the Koinonia Community in Americus, Georgia. With his wife Linda and Koinonia founder Clarence Jordan, he developed the concept of building no-interest housing for families of limited means. The first homes were built in Africa. From the beginning homeowners were required to participate by doing “sweat equity” and the whole community was asked to help out with support.

Since its founding in 1976, Habitat for Humanity International has grown to a worldwide network that has provided homes to more than 1.5 million people. Millard advocated building simple, decent homes without “too many frills” in order to build as many homes as possible with the resources donated to the organization. Fuller left Habitat for Humanity in 2005 after philosophical difference with the Board, but he did not slow down. He immediately created the Fuller Center for Housing which carries out a similar ministry. Fuller continue to speak out on behalf of the poor until his last days.

He and his wife Linda were tireless in traveling the globe to promote Habitat for Humanity and the need for everyone to have a decent place to live. As his wife Linda said in a recent press release, instead of mourning “he would be more interested in having people put on a tool belt and build a house for people in need.”

Even Millard’s instructions for his burial mirrored his theology. He was buried the day after his death at Koinonia Farms next to his spiritual mentor Clarence Jordan in a simple pine box with no headstone in accordance with his wishes.

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