Hepburn, James Davidson
James Hepburn was a London Missionary Society (LMS) missionary to the Ngwato people of Botswana. Born in Newcastle upon Tyne into a poor home, Hepburn educated himself while working in a flour mill and later as a salesman. He was converted in his mid-twenties and volunteered to serve the LMS, which trained him and sent him to South Africa in 1870, immediately after his marriage and ordination. Initially he worked at the Ngwato capital, Shoshong, assisting John Mackenzie until the latter went to Kuruman, Griqualand, in 1876. Hepburn stayed on with his growing family, becoming a close friend of the brilliant Christian king of the Ngwato, Khama III, who had come to power in 1875. Hepburn moved with Khama to the new capital of Palapye in 1889, but by this time relations between them were breaking down. Khama saw his role as that of leader of his people and of the church among his people. Angry at having his authority as church leader challenged, Hepburn left for London in 1891. Repenting of his haste he returned the next year, but Khama would not receive him, so he retired to Britain in 1892.
Andrew C. Ross
Twenty Years in Khama’s Country, As Told in the Letters of Rev. J. D. Hepburn, C. H. Lyall, ed. (1895); Elizabeth Hepburn, Jottings, by Khama’s Friend, Mrs. J. D. Hepburn (1928).
This article is reproduced, with permission, from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, copyright © 1998, by Gerald H. Anderson, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.