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

Butts was senior pastor at Abyssinian Baptist church in Harlem for decades and worked with many different political leaders

The Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, pastor of Harlem's famous Abyssinian Baptist church, died Friday aged 73.

“The Butts family and whole Abyssinian Baptist church membership beg your prayers for us in our bereavement,” the church announced on its website. Death was undetermined.

Butts was Abyssinian's youth minister in 1972 and senior pastor for almost 30 years. From 1999 until 2020, he headed the State University of New York at Old Westbury on Long Island.

The church's magnificent Tudor and Gothic revival edifice on 138th Street in Harlem was dedicated in 1923 and declared a city landmark in 1993.

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.

That same year, Butts hosted then-Cuban leader Fidel Castro at Abyssinian, where the fatigues-wearing communist received a hero’s welcome.