James Knox Polk

James Knox Polk

Pineville, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, USA
Death 15 Jun 1849 (aged 53)
Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee, USA
Cenotaph Columbia, Maury County, Tennessee, USA
Memorial ID 21986940 · View Source
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11th United States President. He was born on a 250-acre farm in Pineville, North Carolina moving to Tennessee at age 11. After a mere two years of formal education James Knox Polk returned to North Carolina to become an honor student at the University of North Carolina. Upon graduation, he studied law in Nashville and then established a law practice in Columbia. During his first year in the Tennessee Legislature, he was introduced to Sarah Childress by Andrew Jackson. A courtship ensued culminating in marriage. His Congressional career lasted fourteen years including two terms as Speaker of the House. Polk returned home and successfully ran for governor of Tennessee. After a two year term he failed to be reelected. Shrewdly, he did not quit politics. His opportunity to revive his career came at the Democratic convention where he became a compromise candidate and when on to win the White House. James and Sarah arrived in Washington for the inauguration by boat and Sarah set the stage for an austere administration. There was to be no dancing, singing, or alcohol permitted in the Polk White House and the Sabbath would be strictly observed. However, his administration froth with achievement. He expanded the borders of the United States to the Pacific Ocean while adding three states to the Union, started the Naval Academy, began construction of the Washington Monument and issued the first postage stamp while proclaiming a uniform standard for all the states; elections would be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. True to his campaign pledge, he served only a four year term. He and Sarah returned to Tennessee. The couple embarked on an extensive tour of the southern states. At the end of the trip, he moved into his recently purchased estate in Nashville, "Polk Place." Just four months after leaving the White House, James Polk, the youngest president in history was dead at the age of 53. He was buried at the Nashville City Cemetery and later reinterred on the lawn of his home "Polk Place" under a monument designed by architect William Strickland. His widow, Sarah endured the longest widowhood of any first lady and was in her 43rd year when death took her at the mansion. She was buried beside her husband at age 87. She had allowed the residence and grounds to become a rundown eyesore. Two years after her death it was demolished and both bodies and the monument were relocated to the grounds of the State Capitol. Polk's greatest legacy was already coming true at the time of his death. America was being forged into a land spanning from sea to shining sea. Pioneers were rushing west to settle or search for gold in California. His birthplace in Pineville is not authentic but a reconstruction on land from the farm of his birth resulted in a few embellished period cabins and a stone historic monument. The Ancestral Home in Columbia, Tennessee was constructed by the Presidents father. It is the only surviving residence of where Polk lived. Here he practiced law and began his political career. The Home displays original items from his years in Tennessee and Washington including furniture paintings and White House china. In the court yard is the cast iron fountain from the demolished Polk mansion in downtown Nashville. It is all that remains of the mansion where the President died and was buried and where Mrs Polk lived until her death and was buried.

Bio by: Donald Greyfield



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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: NatalieMaynor
  • Added: 6 Oct 2007
  • Find a Grave Memorial 21986940
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for James Knox Polk (2 Nov 1795–15 Jun 1849), Find a Grave Memorial no. 21986940, citing Polk Memorial Gardens, Columbia, Maury County, Tennessee, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .