The Proctor Years


Samuel DeWitt Proctor, Th.D., succeeded Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. as pastor of Abyssinian. The distinguished educator was a former President of Virginia Union and North Carolina A&T universities and a member of the governing boards of the United Negro College Fund and the Council on Religious and International Affairs.

Quiet Activist

While noted for his quiet activism, Dr. Proctor was a forthright spokesperson in his condemnation of racism, militarism and injustice, and often a delegate to national and international conferences focusing on human rights and peace.


Strong Affiliations

Under Dr. Proctor, the Church became aligned with the American Baptist Churches, USA, the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., and the Progressive National Baptist Convention. Through these denominational affiliations, the Church is linked with the work of the National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches in efforts to address concerns of the oppressed at home and abroad.

Lift Every Voice

During his pastorate, significant church renovations occurred including the refurbishment of Abyssinian’s stained glass windows. The fine arts also became a significant part of the church’s evangelistic outreach. The 5-manual, 67 rank, Schantz pipe organ was installed, and the New York Philharmonic, Leontyne Price, Billy Taylor, Andre Watts and other renowned artists performed at the church.

left to right: Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III, opera singer Leontyne Price, Rev. Dr. Samuel DeWitt Proctor, Unidentified, Music Minster Dr. Leon E. Thompson