Passing Of Giants Of The Human Spirits”
Rev. Calvin O. Pressley
11/10/37 – 9/21/07
“The Quiet, Congenial, Efficient”
It came as a shock to me Thursday night, October 4, 2007, when I heard
Rev. Calvin O. Pressley was dead. It was the same night I learned that
Bishop Carl Williams had made his transition. It was like left right
punches. Two long time friends, gone from the land of the living, all
most at the same time. My mind raced from one to the other.
Somewhere a long time ago, I met Calvin. I think he was with Carl McCall.
They were good friends for as long as I can remember. It might have
been during the anti-poverty war in the early sixties or when Carl and
others were organizing the Black Intellectual Political Movement. That
year we supported Herman Badillo for mayor. I remember we met with Badillio
in the Commodore Hotel in Manhattan. At that time, Mr. Badillo was expressing
Reverend Pressley was swab, quiet, congenial with a ready smile. He
was intelligent, compassionate and committed to our struggle. Two of
the most memorable ways that he was immensely helpful to me:
The Association of Brooklyn Clergy for Community Development (ABCCD).
With the election of David Dinkins as the 105th mayor or as the first
black mayor of the City of New York, I knew I had a friend in City Hall.
I decided to devote significant time to developing programs and services,
particularly housing. Against the advice of family and friends, rather
than create our own non-profit 501c3 corporation, I decided to join
with an organization already in existence. A group of clergy had started
an organization called the Association of Brooklyn Clergy for Community
Development (ABCCD) to which I became a member. They had a small storefront
office, a couple of part time staff persons. Their program was primarily
referral services. They had a $20 to $30,000 budget.
It was understood that aborting my efforts to start a new organization,
I would become chair of ABCCD and bring my considerable connections,
credibility and influence to develop and promote programs for ABCCD.
In my mind, I was thinking I would need five to six years to achieve
the results that we had formulated. I never sought a permanent or long
time leadership in any organization. The only place I’d ever felt
committed for longevity was pastoral work at my church.
We got off to a good start. With Calvin’s help, we were able to
secure funding for staff. In addition, he connected us to funding sources.
He was influential in helping us to obtain a sizable grant from the
With my connections to the city, we were able to reach a million dollar
budget in one year and moved to a suite of offices. We were able to
build 500 units of new and renovated housing in addition to other programs
and services. The rapid enormous growth and an inexperience staff brought
problems. When Rev. Pressley learned of our swiftly sinking situation,
he dropped everything, flew in from Atlanta, Georgia, and took command.
When he was finished, we were back to normal. Would to God, I could
say we stayed that way. Due to staff incompetence and the lack of the
Board of Director’s vigilance, we soon neared bankruptcy again.
Aided by funders, friends and again Rev. Pressley, I was able to bring
the agency back to solvency.
In time, dissention, which I believe was due to jealously and inordinate
ambition among the Board of Directors, I decided to resign as chair.
For reasons beyond my understanding, I found myself no longer a member
of the Board of Directors. When, Elliot Spitzer was New York State Attorney
General, I appealed to him for assistance in understanding why I was
put off the Board and what was happening to the agency. At his direction,
I met once with his office. I never heard another word. My primary reason
for going to Spitzer, after much agonizing, was two fold.
I thought I owed the people, who had invested time, energy and money
at my request, a report regarding the agency’s state of affairs.
Similarly, the people for whom the resources were raised, deserved to
know what was happening to what was due them, i.e. the services and
programs. I should say here, before I appealed to Spitzer, I requested
in writing from ABCCD Board of Directors answers as to my termination
from the Board and a report on the state of the agency. I informed them
that unless I heard from them I had no choice but to pursue a legal
route. There was never a response.
Another reason for going to Mr. Spitzer, he had wrecked or shifted control
of the Black United Fund (BUF) away from those who started it to his
own handpicked Board of Directors. BUF was competing with philanthropies
for payroll deductions, which some people said was the real reason Mr.
Spitzer shifted control of BUF.
In addition, Mr. Kermit Eddy, the founder and executive director, was
investing money in other ventures. I was a founding member; in fact,
I was one of the first persons that Kermit talked to regarding his plan
to start a BUF. He wanted to make sure there was no conflict between
BUF and the Black United Front, which I chaired at that time. I stayed
a member of Board of Directors until the Board was disbanded by Mr.
Spitzer. Therefore, with that background, I wanted to see if Spitzers
office was fair, impartial in its investigation or was there a political
agenda or ulterior motive. I never received any feedback regarding ABCCD.
The second time Calvin was helpful in a major way is when he was Director
of the Institute of Church Administration and Management, which was
connected to and on the campus of the Interdenominational Theological
Center (ITC). For several consecutive years, he would invite me to be
the Preacher in Residence at the Center. This entailed my staying several
days, conducting workshops during my stay, for which I was substantially
remunerated, plus provided room and board. It was near perfect for me.
It gave me a chance to get away from the daily tensions of an activist
pastor, be in an academic setting, which I loved, read, think, write
and interact with clergy, scholars and community organizers. Plus, it
was only 150 miles from Augusta, Georgia, where as National Minister
of my church, I have to journey periodically. From ITC I would go to
Augusta. And on top of all that, I could bring my wife along. It was
a delightful, refreshing, reinvigorating experience. I looked forward
to it each year. Calvin knew this. I always felt he really was doing
this to help me. Surely, there were those far more qualified than I
who would have jumped at the opportunity.
While I was there, he would take us to dinner, to meetings with friends
and even to sporting events. He was a profoundly sensitive man.
I am certain my story could be repeated by many, many other people.
He will be missed. But he earned his heavenly reward. So, like all the
giants of the human spirit, we hate to see them go, but we want what
is best for them. And God is faithful, who will meet them and reward
them on the other side.
On Saturday, November 10, 2007 from 2pm – 4pm a Report to the
Community and a film showing on our trip to refugee camp in Gaga Chad
Attend the Timbuktu Learning Center’s weekly Thursday night forums
7pm to 9pm held at the House of the Lord Church.
Attend NRLAA’s monthly forum focusing on Africa the 2nd Saturday
from 12pm to 2pm.
Organizing Meetings regarding Darfur every Thursday - 12noon @ the House
of the Lord Church
Keep abreast of our Darfurian activities by checking our web page @
The First Lady’s Committee of the House of the Lord Church invites
you to celebrate with us On Sunday, November 11, 2007, at 12noon as
we honor Rev. Dr. Karen Daughtry, wife of Rev. Daughtry, The National
First Lady and Chair of the National Department of Women’s Work.
For further Information on all events, contact The House of the Lord
Church @ (718) 596-1991.