Habitat Founder Millard Fuller Buried at Koinonia Farm
Millard Fuller, the visionary whose ideas and tireless work created Habitat for Humanity, died on Feb. 3, following a brief illness. A preliminary autopsy suggested congestive heart failure. He was 74.
On Feb. 4, Fuller was buried on Pine Hill at Koinonia Farm, a Christian farming community founded in 1942 in rural Southwest Georgia as a “demonstration plot for the Kingdom of God.” Millard and Linda Fuller made their way to that demonstration plot in 1965, and it is where the idea for Habitat for Humanity was born. Like his spiritual mentor and friend Clarence Jordan, Koinonia’s founder, Fuller was laid to rest in a simple box and has no headstone on his grave.
Fuller led Habitat from its founding in 1976 until his separation from the organization and his founding of the Fuller Center for Housing in 2005.
“Millard Fuller was a force of nature who turned a simple idea into an international organization that has helped more than 300,000 families move from deplorable housing into simple, decent homes they helped build and can afford to buy and live in,” said Jonathan Reckford, chief executive officer of Habitat for Humanity International.
“The entire Habitat family mourns the loss of our founder, a true giant in the affordable housing movement,” said Reckford. “Our prayers are with the entire Fuller family.”
By the time Millard Fuller turned 29, he had earned his first million dollars as an entrepreneur and attorney. But as his finances flourished, his health and marriage crumbled. To save their marriage, the Fullers decided to begin anew. They sold all that they owned, gave the money to the poor and in their searching, landed at Koinonia where they began soaking up the teachings of Jordan, who was a farmer and theologian.
In time, Jordan and Fuller launched a program of “partnership housing,” building simple houses in partnership with rural neighbors who were too poor to qualify for conventional home loans. The first house was dedicated in 1969 and others soon followed. In 1973, the Fullers took the concept of partnership housing to Africa. Within a few years, simple concrete-brick homes were replacing unhealthy mud-and-thatch homes, and Fuller had the idea of spreading the concept to the rest of the world.
In 1976, the Fullers returned to the U.S. and launched Habitat for Humanity International. By the organization’s 25th anniversary, tens of thousands of people were volunteering with Habitat and more than 500,000 people were living in Habitat homes.
Members of NAHB have been long-standing participants in and supporters of Habitat home building efforts.
“Habitat for Humanity has long had a wonderful partnership with the National Association of Home Builders,” Fuller said in May 2003 when NAHB board members and their families participated in the association’s first “Family Build” of Habitat homes in the Washington, D.C. area. “That partnership has been expressed in house sponsorship, providing crew and house leadership to help with the actual construction of houses and in making available overall leadership to the work of Habitat for Humanity. Now the board members are going a step further in strengthening the bond between NAHB and Habitat for Humanity. We are enormously grateful.”
“Habitat for Humanity and NAHB have had a long and fruitful relationship through the years,” said Kent Conine, who was the association’s president that year. “Our members support Habitat for Humanity in diverse ways, and what our members have discovered is that what they receive from working with Habitat far outweighs what they provide.”
Among his numerous awards, Fuller was induced into NAHB’s National Housing Hall of Fame in 1996, and in 1999 he was named by Builder magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in home building in the U.S.
“Millard Fuller’s drive and relentless commitment to affordable housing captured people’s imagination and changed lives around the world,” said J. Ronald Terwilliger, chair of Habitat for Humanity’s International Board of Directors. “His inspiration lives on in Habitat’s work and through its employees, volunteers, partner families and supporters. We extend our sincere condolences to the Fuller family and are keeping them in our thoughts and prayers.”
Fuller is survived by his wife and four children.