White, John Campbell (DNB12)

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WHITE, JOHN CAMPBELL, first Baron Overtoun, (1843–1908), Scottish churchman and philanthropist, born at Hayfield, near Rutherglen, on 21 Nov. 1843, was only son in a family of seven children of James White of Overtoun (d. 1884), one of the partners of the extensive chemical manufacturing firm of John and James White, Shawfield, near Rutherglen. His mother, Fanny (d. 1891), was a daughter of Alexander Campbell, sheriff of Renfrewshire. In 1851 he went to a preparatory school in Glasgow, and in 1859 he entered Glasgow University, where he took prizes in logic and natural philosophy. For a session he worked in the laboratory of Professor William Thomson, afterwards Lord Kelvin [q. v. Suppl. II], who was impressed by his abilities. He graduated M.A. in 1864, and after receiving a good business training joined in 1867 his father's firm, of which he ultimately became principal partner.

From an early period he devoted much time to religious and philanthropic work. Like his parents, he was a staunch supporter of the Free Church of Scotland, took a prominent part in its affairs, and was a munificent contributor to its funds. He supported the movement which in 1900 led to the union of the Free and United Presbyterian churches, and he was the principal defender in the consequent litigation, which temporarily deprived, by the judgment of the House of Lords of 1 Aug. 1904, the United Free Church of its property. White headed an emergency fund with a subscription of 10,000l., and, later, gave a like sum to aid the dispossessed ministers and congregations in the Scottish highlands and islands.

From 1884 to his death he was in succession to his father convener of the Livingstonia Mission of the United Free Church of Scotland, which, with headquarters in Glasgow, supports missionaries in British Central Africa and Northern Rhodesia. He gave the mission no less than 50,000l. His zeal for home mission work was no less pronounced. Coming under the influence of the evangelical revival of 1859–60, he identified himself with the Scottish mission conducted by Moody and Sankey in 1874. Of the Glasgow United Evangelistic Association, an undenominational organisation carrying on extensive social and religious work in Glasgow, which was one of the outcomes of Moody and Sankey's visit, he was the energetic president, and the palatial buildings in Bothwell Street, Glasgow, where are housed the Christian Institute, the Bible Training Institute, and the Young Men's Christian Association (with all of which he was connected), bear witness to his liberality. He was himself a successful religious teacher. For thirty-seven years he conducted a Bible class at Dumbarton, which at his death numbered about five hundred members. White supported the liberal party in Scotland, and in 1893, on Gladstone's recommendation, on account of his philanthropy and political services, was raised to the peerage of the United Kingdom as Baron Overtoun, his title being taken from the finely wooded estate in Dumbartonshire which his father purchased in 1859. He became lord-lieutenant of Dumbartonshire in 1907. He died at Overtoun House on 15 Feb. 1908, and was buried in the family vault in Dumbarton cemetery. He married in 1867 Grace, daughter of James H. McClure, solicitor, Glasgow, who survived him without issue. A presentation portrait by Mr. Fiddes Watt (1909) hangs in the assembly buildings in Edinburgh.

[Glasgow Herald, 17 Feb. 1908; British Monthly, May 1903; Scottish Review, February 1908; Life of Principal Rainy by P. C. Simpson (2 vols. 1909); Free Church of Scotland Appeals, 1903–4, edited by Robert L. Orr, 1904.]

W. F. G.