My Blackberry began buzzing early last week while I was attending the International Roofing Expo with the sad news that Millard Fuller had died in an ambulance on the way to Albany from Americus, Ga. Friends all over knew Millard Fuller was one of my heroes. With his wife, Linda, he founded Habitat for Humanity International and later the Fuller Center for Housing. Details of his life and death are posted on the Web sites of both organizations - fullercenter.org and www.habitat.org.
I had the great good fortune to meet Fuller in the early 1990s when I volunteered with Habitat for Humanity in my hometown of Jacksonville, Fla. The Jacksonville affiliate was then, and is to this day, one of the most prolific of all Habitat affiliates. That, coupled with the close proximity to the Habitat headquarters in Americus, Ga., made trips to Jacksonville possible in the earlier days of the ministry.
Millard Fuller took at natural charisma coupled with an entrepreneurial flair and boundless energy and turned it into a housing ministry that has now built over a quarter-million homes in partnership with people in need. He was at the same time a genuinely humble and decent man. My good friend David Stewart and I had the good fortune to attend news conferences at the several Jimmy Carter Work Projects (JCWP) we worked on together. These news conferences focused mainly on President Carter and local dignitaries and Fuller.
In 2002 the JCWP was in South Africa and we arranged a separate interview with Fuller, the results of which appeared in the December 2002 issue of Roofing Contractor (www.roofingcontractor.com/Articles/Cover_Story/a9bcc64552c58010VgnVCM100000f932a8c0____). I mentioned this recently in an editor’s note, but I think it is worth repeating because it somewhat defines one of Fuller’s core beliefs. In this interview I asked him to define success, and without hesitation he said, quoting his good friend and mentor, Clarence Jordan, “God does not call us to succeed, He calls us to faithfulness.” He went on to explain that belief in more detail, but I can stop right there. This is why Millard Fuller is one of my heroes. He was called to not only help those less fortunate, but to build an organization where others of us could answer our call to help. He was not only faithful, but he was passionate. Some would say to a fault.
While this was only one of numerous “grab and grin” meetings I enjoyed with Fuller over the years, we were blessed to have him furnish the keynote at the first Best of Success conference in Myrtle Beach. His message was crystal clear and delivered with the same vigor and passion I recognized from the very first time I ever heard him speak.
So I am just one who admired the man and will miss him. To honor his memory I will do my small part working with Habitat to eliminate substandard housing from the world. Meanwhile my spirit is sad and will sport a scar from his loss. But I consider it my great good fortune to have had the opportunity to know and learn from such a remarkable individual.