Dear Morehouse Family,
With profound sadness but equally great celebration for an extraordinarily consequential life, Morehouse College mourns the passing of Reverend Dr. Calvin Butts III ’72. The prolific preacher, scholar, visionary, entrepreneur, and advocate lived a life of multidimensional impact, from his groundbreaking leadership of Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem to his tranformative work as president of the State University of New York College at Old Westbury. His legacy will ripple through time for generations.
After graduating from Morehouse College in 1972 with a degree in philosophy, where he joined the Pi chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., he went on to earn a Master of Divinity in church history from Union Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry in church and public policy from Drew University. During his 50 years of service to Abyssinian Baptist Church, his church became the prototype for investments in the community, channeling $1 billion in housing and commercial development into Harlem neighborhoods through the Abyssinian Development Corporation. At the same time, he was blazing an historic trail of higher education impact at the State University of New York College at Old Westbury over more than 20 years, as the college experienced historic enrollment, its first graduate programs, and $150 million in capital projects during his tenure. A highly respected and influential leader in the National Baptist Convention, Inc., he also served as president of Africare NYC, which worked to improve the life of people in rural Africa.
It’s no wonder the Morehouse College Alumni Association named him Man of the Year in the early 1990s and that he received a Candle in the Dark “Bennie” Award in 1990. He is a member of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Board of Preachers and his portrait was inducted into the Morehouse College International Hall of Honor. He was also awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Morehouse in 2011.
Even beyond his work for the masses, Reverend Dr. Butts was known to take time to mentor the next generation of pastors and theologians, particulary Morehouse Men. His life of leadership and service has been the personification of the Morehouse mission and the Black social gospel justice tradition.
We send our deepest condolences to Rev. Dr. Butts’s family, the members of Abyssinian Baptist Church, and all who knew and loved him. Thank you for sharing his love and his light with us.
David A. Thomas, Ph.D.