Millard Fuller, Co-Founder of Habitat for Humanity, Dies
When Fuller's capitalist drive threatened to kill his marriage, Fuller and his wife, who wed in college, decided to sell everything and devote themselves to the Christian values they grew up with.
"I gave away about $1 million," Fuller said in a 2004 interview with The Associated Press. "I wasn't a multimillionaire; I was a poor millionaire."
The couple's search for a mission led them to Koinonia, an interracial agricultural collective outside Americus in south Georgia. It was there with Koinonia founder Clarence Jordan that the Fullers developed the concept of building no-interest housing for the poor — an idea that eventually grew into Habitat for Humanity.
Founded in 1976, Habitat's first headquarters was a tiny gray frame house on Americus' Church Street, which doubled as Fuller's law office. For the first 14 years, Fuller's salary was just $15,000; his wife worked 10 years for free.
Habitat grew from those humble beginnings to a worldwide network that has built more than 300,000 houses, providing shelter to more than 1.5 million people. Preaching the "theology of the hammer," Fuller built an army of volunteers that included former U.S. presidents, other world leaders and Hollywood celebrities.
"The Bible says, 'The Earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof,'" he told the AP in 2004. "That covers just about everything. God's money is just in the pockets of people, and we've got to extract it."
People receiving homes from the charity are required to work on their own houses, investing what the Fullers called "sweat equity" in their own futures.
Fuller's works won him numerous accolades, including a 1996 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. For nearly three decades, he was the public face of Habitat, traveling the world to hammer nails and press bricks from local clay alongside some of the Earth's poorest.