Millsaps remembered as Habitat advocate, man of faith

By Galen Holley/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Friends on Wednesday remembered Luther Millsaps as a man of many
accomplishments with a special passion for bringing affordable housing to the poor.
Millsaps, 83, of Tupelo, who died Tuesday, was known around the state and beyond as a tireless advocate for the Christian housing ministry Habitat for Humanity.
He was also an active leader in the United Methodist Church, the Rotary Club and the Republican Party at the local and state levels.
“He was an inspiration to us for a long time, and he was driven by the love of Christ,” said Elise Winter, wife of former Gov. William Winter, a Democrat, testimony to Millsaps’ friendships that transcended politics.
The Winters worked alongside Millsaps in the mid-1980s after Habitat founder Millard Fuller contacted him to be the point man for overseeing Habitat operations in Mississippi, west central Tennessee, Alabama and Louisiana as regional director.
“His enthusiasm was extraordinary,” said Winter. “He was an advocate for Habitat even before a lot people knew what in the world it was.”
Donna Jarrell, who now oversees Habitat’s Lee County office, grew up right across the street from Millsaps in west Tupelo.
“Luther was so gung-ho, and his dedication had such a huge impact on the success of Habitat in this area,” Jarrell said.
Friends say Millsaps’ commitment to community-building sprang from his Christian faith, as well as from his deep sense of connection to those around him.
“He was a great family man, and he gave generously of his time to serve on committees in the church,” said Jack Reed Sr., a fellow member of First United Methodist Church in Tupelo.
In addition to teaching Sunday school for more than 50 years, Millsaps served as a delegate to both the state and General Conference of the United Methodist Church.
He also served a term as district governor for Rotary. Janice Trawick became the first female district governor of the Mississippi Rotarians in 1998, and credits Millsaps with encouraging her to serve.
“The Rotary’s motto is ‘service above self,’” said Trawick. “Luther embodied that.”
Tommie Bourland will always remember how Millsaps led the Tupelo Rotarians in buying a dialysis machine in the early 1970s, when the procedure was still in its infancy.
The machine, and the support Millsaps lent to 13-year-old Alice Curry, helped prolong her life for two years.
“I just can’t say enough good things about Luther,” said Bourland. “He was just the best of men.”

Contact Galen Holley at (662) 678-1510 or galen.holley@djournal.com