When news broke of the passing of the Rev. Doctor Calvin O. Butts III, on Oct. 28, 2022, there was an immediate outpouring from New Yorkers and those beyond.
New York Attorney General Letitia James said, “Rev. Dr. Calvin Butts was an icon, spiritual leader, and powerful voice for progress. An educator and trusted advisor, Rev. Dr. Butts helped shape young minds at SUNY Old Westbury and provided guidance to anyone who asked for his ministry and his wisdom. Through his leadership of the Abyssinian Baptist Church, he helped promote social change throughout his community and far beyond. His leadership transcended religious differences and was instrumental in building economically vibrant and spiritually strong institutions in Harlem and across New York City. My heart is with Rev. Dr. Calvin Butts’ wife, children, grandchildren, and all those who benefited from the love, wisdom, and passion he brought into their lives. May he rest in peace and may his memory be a source of strength and inspiration for generations to come.”
On a national level Minister Louis Farrakhan sent words of comfort: “To the family and friends of Reverend Dr. Calvin O. Butts III, and the congregation of Abyssinian Baptist Church, the Nation of Islam and I extend our deepest condolences on the passing of our great brother. New Yorkers have lost a great brother and friend, and I have lost a friend and a brother. May Allah Guide, Bless and Protect Abyssinian Baptist Church and its congregation and all those who have been touched by Reverend Butts, whether in a church service or in an administrative position in a college or university.
“I have known him since he graduated from Morehouse College, and we became friends. My last talk with him was a few weeks ago and spiritually we always met on common ground. I shall miss him as my brother and friend and I pray that Allah’s (God’s) Peace will be with his family, his congregation and his friends. His was a job well done and a life of service well lived. I shall keep him in my heart until Allah (God) calls me in. Peace Be Unto You All. As Salaam Alaikum.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton, the founder and president of the National Action Network, declared, “Rev. Butts was a major pillar in the Harlem community and is irreplaceable. He was a dominant faith and academic leader for decades. We knew each other for more than 40 years, and while we did not always agree we always came back together. Over the last three years, he and I worked closely as co-chairs of the Choose Healthy Life national campaign to help the Black community fight COVID. We spoke as late as a couple of weeks ago about this work, as he was still fighting cancer. He will be tremendously missed.”
Harlem’s former Assemblyman Keith L.T. Wright stated, “The passing of Rev. Dr. Calvin Butts is a great loss for Harlem, for the Abyssinian Baptist Church and for me, as he was a great friend for more than 40 years. He and I worked together, and marched together, on so many of the issues that mattered to the people of Harlem, from health care to police brutality to affordable housing.
“Rev. Dr. Butts carried the badge of Morehouse College with him forever, and I will never forget his wry sense of humor and his giving spirit. When my church, the St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, suffered a roof collapse, he was the first one to call and offer his support. And his political endorsement carried its weight in gold. Rev. Dr. Butts was an important figure for all of us in politics and when you had his support, it meant something.
“Rev. Dr. Butts was a good man who worked hard for his church, his family and his community, and he left this world a better place than he found it. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him and all whose lives he touched.”
City worker and businessman Anthony Williams told the Amsterdam News, “My son Anthony was initially denied acceptance to Old Westbury where Rev. Calvin Butts was the president. He sent multiple emails to Rev. Butts and his office. Impressed with my son’s resolve, he eventually told him to come in for a sit down. At that meeting Mr. Butts told him he’d accept him and was sure that my son wouldn’t let him down.
“Everytime that my son would start to get a little suspect, I’d remind him that Mr. Butts had vouched for him; that he owed that man and himself a degree. Butts absolutely helped me get my young Black male to the finish line!”
Anthony J. Williams added, “Thanks Rev. Butts for believing in me; I’m grateful and I’m definitely gonna pay it forward.”Services for Rev. Butts will take place at the Abyssinian Baptist Church, 132 W. 138th Street in New York on Friday, Nov. 4 at 2 p.m. Viewings: Thursday, Nov. 3; 9 a.m.-7 p.m. and Friday, Nov. 4 9 a.m.-11 a.m.