Renown Harlem Pastor, Calvin Butts, Passes Away


The Rev. Calvin Butts, the Senior Pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, has passed away.


The Abyssinian Baptist Church shared the news Friday morning on its social media pages.


"It is with profound sadness, we announce the passing of our beloved pastor, Reverend Dr. Calvin O. Butts, lll, who peacefully transitioned in the early morning of October 28, 2022," the church said in an online tribute.


According to close friends and associates, Rev. Butts had been battling cancer.


Rev. Butts was born in July 19th 1949 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. However, he spent most of his lifetime in New York.


In high school, he was a promising athlete and scholar as a member of the track team and president of his senior class.

He received in undergraduate degree from Morehouse College, where he pledged Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.


However, his interests quickly turned to civil rights.

After the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., Rev. Butts and several other Morehouse students took to the streets in anger.

After graduation, Butts returned to New York where he earned his Master of Divinity degree in Church History from Union Theological Seminary in 1975.


Later, he would complete his Doctorate of Ministry in Church and Public Policy from Drew University.


He was still in graduate school when he was hired to work at Abyssinian Baptist Church, eventually being named head pastor in 1989.


He assumed the pastoral reins from Samuel Proctor and the late great congressman, Adam Clayton Powell Jr.


During Rev. Butts remarkable tenure as the church’s leader, Rev. Butts was a tireless advocate for affordable housing. He helped to raise corporation raise $2.8 million to purchase and renovate property to be used as a homeless shelter.

In addition, he oversaw the building of a large apartment complex for senior citizens and apartments for moderate income households.

In an effort to elevate the image of the Black community, Rev. Butts persuaded some record labels and radio stations to reject violent and misogynistic rap lyrics. He even led efforts to whitewash billboards in Harlem that advertised liquor and cigarettes.


The Rev. Al Sharpton who had collaborated with Rev. Butts in recent years on an initiative to combat COVID in the Black community shared the following:


"Rev. Butts was a major pillar in the Harlem community and is irreplaceable," Sharpton said in a released statement. "He was a dominant faith and academic leader for decades." "He will be missed," continued Sharpton.


Until his passing, he served Chairman Emeritus of the Board of the National Black Leadership Commission on Health.

From 1999 to 2020, Rev. Butts was the president of the State University of New York at Old Westbury.


Butts had received honorary degrees from several colleges and universities, including Claflin College, Dillard University, Fordham University, and Tuskegee University.


As some may recall, in January 2021, Rev. Butts eulogized well-known actress Cicely Tyson, who was a longtime member of Abyssinian Baptist Church.


Butts, who had been the pastor of the renowned Abyssinian Baptist Church for more than 30 years, was set to celebrate his 50-year anniversary with the ministry this year.


He is survived by his wife, Patricia, three children, and six grandchildren.


Rev. Butts was only 73 years old.

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