Monday, 05 Dec 2022

Rev Calvin O Butts III, pastor who fought poverty and racism, dies aged 73

Rev Calvin O Butts III, pastor who fought poverty and racism, dies aged 73


Rev Calvin O Butts III, pastor who fought poverty and racism, dies aged 73

Butts began serving as a youth minister at Abyssinian in 1972 and was senior pastor there for more than 30 years. He also served as president of the State University of New York at Old Westbury, on Long Island, from 1999 to 2020.

His post at Abyssinian gave Butts one of the most prominent pulpits in the US. The church traces its roots to 1808 when a group of Black worshippers who refused to accept segregation at the First Baptist church of New York City left to form their own congregation.

Earlier pastors at Abyssinian included Adam Clayton Powell Sr and his son Adam Clayton Powell Jr, the first African American to be elected to Congress from New York.

Butts was known for working with political leaders across the ideological spectrum. In 1995, the Republican state governor, George Pataki, appointed Butts to two state boards that controlled economic development grants to businesses.

Butts helped mobilize church leaders to support programs for Aids patients in the 1980s and more recently set up a Covid-19 vaccination clinic at Abyssinian to encourage community residents to get immunized against the virus.

Butts courted controversy in the 1990s by preaching against violent and misogynist rap lyrics. He had parishioners bring recordings of the offensive music to church to be steamrolled in June 1993 but then ended up dumping the CDs in front of a Sony office in midtown Manhattan instead of smashing them.

Tributes to Butts poured in Friday.

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