The Reverend Dr Calvin Batts has died aged 73

The Reverend Dr Calvin Batts has died aged 73


The Rev. Calvin O. Batts III, who welcomed generations of worshipers as well as political leaders from around the country and the world to Harlem’s iconic Abyssinian Baptist Church, died Friday at the age of 73, the church announced.

“The Batts family and the entire membership of Abyssinian Baptist Church ask that you pray for us in our difficult loss,” the church said in a statement on its website. The cause of death is not known.

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

He worked with political leaders across the ideological spectrum.

In 1995, Republican Gov. George Pataki appointed Baths to two state boards that oversaw economic development grants to businesses. That same year, Butts hosted then-Cuban leader Fidel Castro in Abyssinia, where the uniformed communist received a hero’s welcome.

The Reverend Al Sharpton called Bats a pillar in the Harlem community. “He has been a dominant faith and academic leader for decades,” Sharpton said in a statement. “We knew each other for over 40 years and although we didn’t always agree, we always came back together.”

Sharpton said he spoke with Butts recently and “he was still battling cancer,” CBS New York reported.

U tweetMayor Eric Adams called Baths “a true giant of our city.”

“Throughout my journey, Reverend Batts has been a mentor, friend and counselor, even in my final days,” Adams wrote.

CBS New York’s Elijah Westbrook reported Friday from Abyssinian Baptist Church, where residents mourned Bats’ death. Westbrook himself was baptized by the Reverend in 1995.

Tyler Perry and Bill and Hillary Clinton were among those in attendance at a memorial service for actor Cicely Tyson that Butts hosted in Abyssinia last year. Batts praised Tyson as an example of “an example of how we can all live.”