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On lineage

David Epps's picture

When I first moved to Georgia nearly 27 years ago, a shopkeeper said, “Epps ... hmmm. Unusual name. Where are you from?”

“I moved here from Colorado,” I replied.

“No, no,” he responded, “Where are your people from?”

“Northeastern Tennessee,” I shared.

He looked at me in disgust and said, “That’s what’s wrong with you people from the South. You don’t know where you’re from.”

My response was a confused look. “Look,” he said. “My family comes from Italy. My wife’s family is German. You see?”

“Oh, sure,” I replied.

“So, where are your people from?” he insisted.

“We are from the South.” With a snort he went back to his work.

In truth, I had no idea where “my people” came from. It had never mattered. We were “Americans by birth and Southern by the grace of God.” Nothing else was ever discussed.

So, the next time I was in Tennessee, I brought it up. Dad wasn’t sure either. He thought that the Epps name hailed from Germany and he was quite certain that my mother’s maiden name, Luster, was Irish in origin. That was good enough for me. Suddenly I was a German-Irish-American Southerner, with a dash of Cherokee thrown in a few generations back.

Much later, I discovered that the Epps name apparently wasn’t German at all but English in origin. Many of those who have the name Epps, Eppes, Epes, and other variations trace their beginnings to Kent, England.

I can trace my father’s lineage back to before the War Between the States and there it gets murky. So, I was an English-Irish-American Southerner, with a dash of Cherokee thrown in a few generations back.

And since my great-great grandfather Alexander Epps was a private in the 63rd Tennessee Infantry and battled the invading blue hoard from the North, I guessed I was really an English-Irish-Confederate-American Southerner, with a dash of Cherokee thrown in a few generations back.

But then, just a few years ago, I visited Ireland. Ireland is such a beautiful land. Even in January, the green hues were stunning and the people and country were magnificent. I loved the food, the music, the accents, the people, the history ... I was so happy to be Irish.

Until I was informed by the tour guide that Luster was an English name. “Have ye ne’er heerd of Lustershire, in England?” he inquired. I had not. I was crushed.

For years, I held on to the joy of being Irish and now it seemed that I was an English-English-American Southerner with a dash of Cherokee blood ... and even that Cherokee part cannot be documented and the claim is held in dispute by some family members.

I have been told that one reason my strain of the Epps lineage may be murky is that, somewhere in the first part of the 1800s, there may be a mulatto in the mix — an ancestor born of black and white parents — whose name would not necessarily have been recorded in the books of that day. So, potentially throw African into the equation.

There are other lines left to trace, of course. I suspect that, like most Americans, I am really a mongrel — a mix of many breeds. Here in this giant melting pot, nationalities tend to bleed into each other and run together. So be it. The best dogs I ever owned were mongrels, too.
While I was a bit sad this last St. Patrick’s Day (I really did like the idea of being Irish), I finally know and have come to terms with who I am and where I come from.

I am American by birth and Southern by the grace of God.

[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. ( He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese ( and is the mission pastor of Christ the King Fellowship in Champaign, IL. He may be contacted at]


I served in Germany with the US Army 1960-1965 and had a working associate in Italy named Jim Epps. We did meet several times during operational conferences and meetings. Professionally, we got along fine; personally, we did not.

Father Epps,

Bravo to you for sharing about the wonderful array of genetics that flow within your veins. You are correct...we are all a little "mixed up" and that is something to be treasured and proud of. Most importantly though we are all Americans!

P.S. I have come across a number of people of color with that last name so you really may have a little "soul brother" in you! :)

in your family?
How about Li?
Any Druveckic?
Chang Chong?
King Kong?

Are "the people of color" the Indians that Epps has as family, or some other race?
Let's see, Orientals are somewhat yellowish or brown. That is a people of color.
Some Italians are somewhat dark, but they are not usually called people of color.
The Irish have red noses for the most part and wear a lot of green--but that probably wouldn't count.
White is the absence of color isn't it?
Does a very dark room full of flowers cause the flowers to have no colors?
It is hard to tell without turning on the light.....ooops I get it!

Africa has enormous amounts of brown and black people who certainly are of color.
But I never heard of one African native named Father Epps!

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