Margaret Polk

Margaret Polk

Birth
Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee, USA
Death 5 Apr 1990 (aged 67)
Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee, USA
Burial Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee, USA
Memorial ID 14078862 · View Source
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World War II Figure. She received notoriety as a Memphis native who had a United States B-17 Flying Fortress aircraft named in her honor, the “Memphis Belle,” during World War II. This aircraft went on to be credited as the first to complete the required 25 missions in the European theater. As a 19-year-old college student, she was the daughter of a wealthy lawyer, who was a gentleman farmer and claimed to be a descendant of America's eleventh President James Knox Polk of Nashville, Tennessee. While on a springtime visit to her older sister Elizabeth's home in Walla Walla, Washington, she was first introduced to United States Army Air Corps pilot, Second Lieut. Robert K. Morgan. He had been married once before. Shortly after the meeting, the couple soon started dating with a whirlwind romance and within months, would be announcing their engagement on the 12th of September. When Morgan was assigned his own B-17 Flying Fortress in 1942, he would ultimately show his love for her by naming the plane the "Memphis Belle" in her honor. The "Memphis Belle" would go on to become credited as the first plane to fly the required 25 bombing missions over France, Belgium, Holland, and Germany. The 25th mission was on May 17, 1943. In June of 1943, she graduated from what is now Rhodes College. Their engagement announcement in the newspaper said a spring of 1944 wedding was planned. Upon Morgan's return to stateside, he swept her in his arms with a kiss, and to her surprise, a photograph of their reunion was on the front page of every newspaper the next day. Using this fame, she and her fiancé toured from city to city selling war bonds at the request of the Army. Prior to this tour together, their relationship had been mainly long-distance. By August, the romantic relationship between Polk and Morgan ended, however the two would remain good friends until her death. He was deployed to the Pacific assignment. She became an airline flight attendant and at the age of 28, she married for a few years. From the inheritance after her father's 1946 death, she became financially comfortable supporting various charities, especially those dealing with alcohol abuse. Margaret Polk continued to be dedicated to the "Memphis Belle," and until the day of her death, she was a driving force behind the group called “Save the Belle,” which raised funds for preserving the plane in Memphis. In 1946 the City of Memphis had purchased the plane from a surplus yard. After her death in October of 2005, the plane was transported to the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. In October of 2011 at Veterans Plaza in Memphis' Overton Park, a memorial to her and the crew of the “Memphis Belle” was unveiled. In Polk's honor, a bronze statue was erected showing a life-size version of her from the knees up with her head tilted toward the sky and her right hand shading her eyes from sun, as if she was watching the skies for her namesake bomber to return. On the back of the statue's limestone base, there is a plaque telling Polk's love story. To the left of her statue, there is a huge piece of limestone with an intricate relief sculpture of the airplane and crew members and on the back a plaque with the detailed story of their historical achievements. Her cause of death was cancer.

Bio by: G.Photographer


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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: Kim Inboden
  • Added: 26 Apr 2006
  • Find a Grave Memorial 14078862
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Margaret Polk (15 Dec 1922–5 Apr 1990), Find a Grave Memorial no. 14078862, citing Forest Hill Cemetery Midtown, Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .