Theological Corner: Honoring Rev. Dr. Calvin Butts

by George Haigler, III

Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III, the Senior Pastor of the Historic Abyssinian Baptist Church in the Village of Harlem, New York, passed in the early morning of Friday, October 28, 2022, it is reported.  Rev. Dr. Butts (July 19, 1949-October 28, 2022, 73 Years Old), was a Prince of the Pulpit and a true Prince of the City of the Village of Harlem, New York. He was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

On the Church’s website, there is a quote of Dr. Butt’s Vision Statement, which reads: “Education and faith are the Tigris and the Euphrates of our liberation: twin rivers at the source of our redemption.” Dr. Butts was a man of matchless vision, faith and profound caretaker of education.

He was the Senior Pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church some more than 30 years, having been mentored and tutored by the then Senior Pastor, the late Rev. Dr. Samuel DeWitt Proctor for 17 years before succeeding him in the Pulpit. He was the President of the State University of New York at Old Westbury, from 1999-2020 (he retired in 2020). He was the Chairman and one of the Founders of the Abyssinian Development Corporation, a community based, not-for-profit organization which has been responsible for over $1 Billion Dollars in housing and commercial real estate investment in Harlem. Dr. Butts was also instrumental in establishing the Thurgood Marshall Academy for Learning and Social Change-a public, state of the art, intermediate and high school in Harlem, and is the visionary behind the Thurgood Marshall Academy Lower School. (Quoted from the Abyssinian Baptist Church Website).

Dr. Butts was educated at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy; he earned a Master of Divinity Degree in Church History from New York City’s Union Theological Seminary and a Doctorate in Ministry in Church and Public Policy from Drew University, in Madison, New Jersey. He was the recipient of many awards and honors and merits of distinction from such luminaries as Teacher’s College. Columbia University, The Medal For Distinguished Service; Morehouse College Alumni Association, Man of the Year, and the United Negro College Fund’s Shirley Chisholm Community Service Award.

Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III, was a man for all time and especially, a man of the Community. A gentleman and leader in the community shared these recently recollections of Dr. Butts in a testimonial he would like to share:

“As a young African American male in his first year of college, I was fortunate enough to hear Rev Dr. Calvin Butts’ lecture at Marymount Manhattan College in Manhattan. I remember his tall statue and his oratory speech commanded all my attention. The most valuable takeaway was how he impressed young African American males to read and then read some more. To take everything in and continue to read. He mentioned finding a passion for our history first and foremost, but to read as many subject matters as you can handle. I knew then that he was one of our shining stars. His passion and his love for reading the written word added fuel and sparked me in securing my education. He was then and will always remain a shining star who excelled in life for me. His command of the word along with his preaching voice captured your attention in any room”.

Samuel M, Professional Grant Writer

I personally wish to thank God for meeting Dr. Butts during my time at the Convent Avenue Baptist Church in Harlem, New York, where I served the Church and its late, great Senior Pastor, Rev. Dr. Clarence P. Grant, as their Program Administrator. I would see Dr. Butts on his way to work as I was on my way to work, after getting off the subway in Harlem (I commuted from Brooklyn, New York). He would wave and share that great smile and from time to time, when I would see him at various churches over the years, share brief conversation and always accompanied his talk with humility and kindness.

The world has lost a real luminary. A visionary. An educator, without peer. A Pastor/Preacher/Prince of the Pulpit who examined the Word of God with excellence and dedication to delivering a potent Word for our times. A good churchman. A loving husband, father, grandfather and friend. Dr. Butts has kept the faith. Finished his course far and beyond the call of duty which the Lord inspires. May there be laid up for him a Crown of Righteousness which the Lord, our Faithful Creator and Father, bestows upon all them who love His Name and appearing and who dutifully carry out their Kingdom Assignment with commitment and diligence.

Dr. Butts is survived by his wife, Mrs. Patricia Butts, who have three children and six grandchildren.  

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