Reverend Calvin O. Butts III, longtime community leader and pastor in Harlem, dies at 73


The Reverend Calvin O. Butts III, a prominent religious leader who led the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, died Friday, the church said. He was 73 years old.

« The Butts family and all members of the Abyssinian Baptist Church seek your prayers for us in our bereavement, » the church said in a statement regarding the passing of its beloved pastor.

CNN has reached out to members of the Butts family for further comment.

Butts served at the Abyssinian Baptist Church, considered New York State’s first black Baptist congregation, for more than 30 years.

He was president of the Abyssinian Development Corporation, “a community-based nonprofit organization responsible for over $1 billion in real estate and business development in Harlem,” his official church biography states.

Butts also served as President Emeritus of State University of New York College at Old Westbury and Visiting Professor in the Division of Educational Leadership, Administration, and Policy at Fordham University Graduate School of Education. He was also married and had three children and six grandchildren, his biography states.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul said in a statement that Butts « embodied true spiritual leadership – with a commitment to faith, community and mentorship that [she] was honored to testify in [their] work together. »

New York Attorney General Letitia James called Butts an « icon » and said her heart is with her family, loved ones and the entire community of the Abyssinian Baptist Church.

The Abyssinian Baptist Church was established as the first African-American Baptist Church in New York State in 1808 by a group of people who « refused to accept separate seats in the First Baptist Church in New York » , according to its website. The church opened its current location in Harlem, New York in 1922, the website says.

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