My Blog

Frye Gaillard Remembers Millard Fuller

Author Frye Gaillard offers the following remembrance of Habitat for Humanity founder Millard Fuller, who died this past week. Gaillard wrote extensively about Fuller in his book If I Were a Carpenter: Twenty Years of Habitat for Humanity.

I was stunned by the news that Millard Fuller had died. Seldom have I met a man more vital, more energetic or committed to his work. The founder of Habitat for Humanity may have had his feet of clay–an inclination to greed in his early adulthood that almost ruined him; and random sexual longings later on that caused hurt to a few of the women he worked with. But Fuller was a good and decent man, and because of his energy and his life, more than a million people worldwide–many of them the poorest of the poor–are living today in good and sturdy homes.

At a critical time in his life, Fuller paid a visit to Koinonia Farms, a Christian commune in southwest Georgia where the Southern Baptist radical Clarence Jordan had taken a powerful stand for racial justice. Together, Fuller and Jordan came up with the Habitat idea–the notion that volunteers working in partnership with the poor could build decent houses that most low-income families could afford. The key to it all was a no-interest mortgage, because the Bible on that point was clear–explicit, in fact, in the Book of Exodus about not charging interest to people who were poor. Jordan thought the Bible meant what it said and so did Fuller, and the result became Habitat for Humanity–one of the high-water marks in American philanthropy.

If Fuller’s legacy is solid–a fitting reminder of his energy and drive–he is still a man who will be deeply missed.

Frye Gaillard is the author of If I Were a Carpenter: Twenty Years of Habitat for Humanity; With Music and Justice for All: Some Southerners and Their Passions, including a profile of Millard Fuller; and Watermelon Wine and a contributor to American Crisis, Southern Solutions from NewSouth Books.