Clement Doke was a South African Baptist minister. He was a member of an outstanding family that made a significant impact on life in southern Africa and beyond. His father was a Baptist minister and church leader, and Clement followed in his footsteps, ordained by the Baptist Union of South Africa. He spent eight years (1914-1921) with the South African Baptist Missionary Society in Zambia (then Northern Rhodesia), after having first trekked there with his father in 1913 (on that trip Clement walked over 480 kilometers). His most outstanding contribution was in the area of linguistics. In his early years he translated the Bible and several hymnbooks into the logical language, Lamba. After returning to South Africa due to ill health, he was appointed senior lecturer in the newly established department of Bantu studies at the University of the Witwatersrand in 1923. He gained a doctorate there in 1924. He became an expert on Bantu languages and wrote many papers and books, including Zulu-English Dictionary and the English-Lamba Dictionary. Both these works are used as reference material today. Many missionaries have been made more effective in their ministry as a result of Doke’s work. Doctorates were conferred on him at Rhodes University (1971) and Witwatersrand (1972). During the latter ceremony it was claimed that “no one south of the Zambesi has given the African language such service over so many fruitful years.”
This article was reprinted, with permission from Twentieth-Century Dictionary of Christian Biography, edited by J. D. Douglas (Carlisle, Cumbria, England : Paternoster Press ; Grand Rapids, Mich. : Baker Books, c1995). All rights reserved.