Millard Fuller is the founder and president of Habitat for Humanity International. As a demonstration of God’s love, Habitat volunteers have built homes together with more than 95,000 families in more than 1,500 U.S. cities and 76 countries. Habitat has grown to be one of the top 20 house builders in the U.S. and the largest among non-profits.
From humble beginnings in Alabama, Fuller earned a degree in economics from Auburn University and a law degree from the University of Alabama. While still in law school, he and friend, Morris Dees, established a business partnership that rapidly grew to include numerous marketing and real estate enterprises. The endeavor made Fuller a millionaire at 29, but his health, integrity, and marriage had suffered.
The crises prompted Fuller to re-evaluate his values and direction. His “soul-searching” led to reconciliation with his wife, Linda, and a renewal of his Christian commitment. The Fullers then took a drastic step. They sold all of their possessions, gave the money to the poor, and began searching for a new focus for their lives. What they found was Koinonia Farm, a Christian community located near Americus, Georgia, where people were looking for practical ways to apply Christ’s teachings.
With the Koinonia founder and others, the Fullers initiated several partnership enterprises, including a ministry in housing. They built modest houses on a no-profit, no-interest basis, thus making homes affordable for families with low incomes. Homeowner families were expected to invest their own labor into the building of their home and the homes of other families. This reduced the cost of the house, increased the pride of ownership, and fostered the development of positive relationships.
In 1973, Millard and Linda moved to Africa with their four children to test the housing model. The project, which was piloted in Zaire, was indeed a success, and the Fuller family decided to return to the U.S. in 1976.
Upon his return, Fuller met with a number of close associates who were involved in his work. The group decided to create a new, independent organization — Habitat for Humanity International. Since then, the Fullers have passionately devoted all of their energies to the expansion of the Habitat model throughout the world. When President Bill Clinton bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Fuller in 1996, he remarked that Habitat for Humanity was “the most successful continuous community service project in the history of the United States.”
In 2002, President George H. W. Bush and the Points of Light Foundation honored the Fullers with a bronze medallion embedded in The Extra Mile national monument in Washington, D.C. Three years later, the couple founded a new ministry known as the Fuller Center for Housing. Millard Fuller died on February 3, 2009 at the age of 74 and was laid to rest at Koinonia Farm in Georgia. In June 2009, both branches of Congress passed resolutions in recognition of his life and good works.