The death of the Rev. Dr. Calvin Butts III has prompted an outpouring of condolences from Black leaders, in particular, who have been mourning the loss of the longtime pastor of the legendary Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem.
Butts died Friday at the age of 73 following a battle with cancer and a career in public service that spanned more than 50 years.
Keep reading to find a sampling of what Black leaders across the country had to say in response to learning about Butts’ death.
Rev. Jesse Jackson
The Rev. Jesse Jackson compared Butts to other civil rights leaders who worked tirelessly on behalf of Black folks.
“My brother beloved, of the highest ministerial level,” Jackson tweeted. “He was a solid, disciplined preacher in the lineage of the late Congressman&minister Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.&the late Rev. Dr. Samuel Dewitt Proctor.”
Jackson also added: “My brother beloved, a biblical scholar, education advocate and leader, liberator and faithful servant. … May he rest in heavenly peace.”
Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson
Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson, Chairman of the Conference of National Black Churches, and Senior Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Mount Vernon, New York, said the good work Butts did in life will last in his death and beyond.
“Rev. Butts was a servant-leader whose legacy will live on through those he inspired. He was a titan of Harlem who understood that a faithful community had to be as strong beyond the church doors as it was in the pews. Rev. Butts dedicated his life to building up his community,” Richardson said in a statement emailed to NewsOne. “’To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.’ Now that Dr. Butts has ascended from labor to reward, I say, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.’”
Cornel West, who is part of the faculty at the Union Theological Seminary in New York City where Butts earned his master’s degree in divinity, remembered Butts as a friend.
“I am deeply saddened by the loss of my very dear brother the great Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts lll – my deep friend of over 40 years! My love and respect for him are forever!” West tweeted. “God bless his precious wife Patricia and his family! #RevCalvinButts.”
Sherrilyn Ifill, former president and director-counsel of the Legal Defense Fund, said Butts followed in the tradition of other Harlem luminaries.
“The platform of the pulpit at Abyssinian was a big one. It requires a leader of vision and power. In the tradition of its former pastor Rep. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., the Reverend Calvin Butts understood the kind of leadership Harlem expects and needs from this great church. And he delivered,” Ifill said in a statement emailed to NewsOne. “Just last year we strategized together about the response of the Black church to hate crimes – and particularly to anti-Asian violence – in our city. He was always ready to demonstrate solidarity and resolve.”
New Jersey Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver
Across the river in New Jersey, the state’s lieutenant governor said she was “saddened” at Butts’ death and ran down a few of his accomplishments in life that she said would not be forgotten in his death.
“Reverend Butts will be missed, but his legacy as a national faith leader in social justice and equity will continue through the lives of those he comforted and touched, not just in his community but also across the nation,” New Jersey Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver said in a statement posted to Twitter.
Rev. Al Sharpton
National Action Network President and Founder Rev. Al Sharpton made sure folks remembered just how much Butts means to the same Harlem community in which he is based.
“Rev. Butts was a major pillar in the Harlem community and is irreplaceable. He was a dominant faith and academic leader for decades,” Sharpton said in a statement emailed to Newsone. “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.”
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