ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Millard Fuller, who founded Habitat for Humanity International along with his wife, has died, officials said Tuesday. He was 74.
With his wife, Linda, Fuller founded Habitat for Humanity International in 1976.
The Alabama native rose "from humble beginnings" to become a "young, self-made millionaire," according to his biography on Habitat for Humanity's Web site. He and a college friend began a marketing firm while still in school, "but as his business prospered, his health, integrity and marriage suffered," the biography said.
"These crises prompted Fuller to re-evaluate his values and direction. His soul-searching led to reconciliation with his wife and to a renewal of his Christian commitment," it said.
The Fullers sold all their possessions, gave money to the poor and began searching for a new direction. They found Koinonia Farm, a Christian community near Americus in rural southwest Georgia, the biography said.
Along with Koinonia founder Clarence Jordan and a few others, the couple initiated several enterprises, among them a housing ministry that built modest homes on a no-interest, nonprofit basis and made them affordable to low-income families.
Homeowner families were expected to use their own labor to help defray costs on their home as well as homes for other families. Money to build homes was placed into a revolving fund, enabling more to be built, according to the biography.
In 1973, the Fullers moved to Africa to test their housing model, the biography said. Their project was launched in Zaire -- now the Democratic Republic of the Congo -- and was a success. "Fuller became convinced that this model could be expanded and applied all over the world," the biography said.
When Fuller returned to the United States three years later, he met with a group of associates to create Habitat for Humanity International. According to its Web site, Habitat has provided shelter for more than 1.5 million people in more than 3,000 communities.
"I see life as both a gift and a responsibility. My responsibility is to use what God has given me to help his people in need," Fuller once said, according to Habitat's Web site.
Former President Jimmy Carter, a key Habitat supporter, fellow Georgian and a close friend, said that Fuller "used his remarkable gifts as an entrepreneur for the benefit of millions of needy people around the world by providing them with decent housing. As the founder of Habitat for Humanity and later the Fuller Center, he was an inspiration to me, other members of our family and an untold number of volunteers who worked side-by-side under his leadership."
In 1996, President Clinton awarded Fuller the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, calling Habitat "the most successful continuous community service project in the history of the United States."