HARLEM, Manhattan (WABC) -- Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, the senior pastor at Abyssinian Baptist Church and a Harlem mainstay, was remembered as an incredibly influential figure in New York City after he died Friday.
Butts' followers and acquaintances described him as a spiritual guide, leading the spiritual growth of his parishioners and a fierce and fearless advocate for social change.
"I'm certainly going to miss Reverend Butts. He was an outstanding preacher, kind human being, and he's gone way too soon," one parishioner said.
The Rev. Al Sharpton called Butts a major pillar in the Harlem community.
"He was a dominant faith and academic leader for decades," Sharpton said in a statement. "We knew each other for more than 40 years, and while we did not always agree we always came back together."
New York Attorney General Letitia James said Butts' "leadership transcended religious differences and was instrumental in building economically vibrant and spiritually strong institutions in Harlem and across New York City."
Butts could thunder from the pulpit, but in one-on-one conversations, he spoke softly and always graciously.
Mayor Eric Adams called him a "dear friend" who "mentored me in some of the most difficult moments in the city."
National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial said, "He brought hope to the hopeless and light to those who struggled in darkness."
Gov. Kathy Hochul said, "Butts was a force for moral clarity, a voice for his Harlem community, a counselor to so many of us in public service."
In an interview on Eyewitness News, Jennifer Jones Austin, the CEO of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies and whose father was religious leader who worked closely with Butts, said "he loved the community. He would refer to the Abyssinian community as 'his beloved.' He loved them, and he worked to serve Abyssianian (and) the Harlem community, bringing his whole self to the work, the work of service and justice."
Watch the full interview:
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