North Carolina Farmer, Journalist and Political Figure. Prior to the Civil War, he was a successful farmer with his brothers on their estate in Anson County, North Carolina. In 1860, at the age of 23 he was elected to the House of Commons and voted to oppose North Carolina's secession from the Union. During the Civil War, he served as a Colonel in command of the 81st North Carolina Militia, where he fought and was wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg. After the war, he restored his farm, became active in state politics, advocated for farmers and for the Grange Agriculture Movement and served in the North Carolina house of Representatives, (1865-66). He founded the town of Polkton, incorporated in 1875, launched a weekly newspaper, The Ansonian", through which he urged farmers to join the Grange Agriculture Movement. His efforts led to he being appointed the first Commissioner of the newly created North Carolina State Department of Agriculture in 1887. Leaving the commission post in 1880, he returned to journalism with the Raleigh News and was founder of the Progressive Farmer newspaper. Through the 1880s, he was president of the Baptist State Convention, plus used his journal influence to establish both the Agricultural and Mechanical College and Baptist Female University, now known as North Carolina State University and Meredith College. He became the president of the National Farmers' Alliance and Industrial Union, traveled the country speaking to Alliance groups and became a national favorite among farmers. By the 1890s, he joined the People's Populist Party and had immediate success among many Southerners. In 1892, the Populists nominated Polk for the Presidential Ballot but he died unexpectedly from a hemorrhaging bladder at age 55. He also was one of the first inductees into the North Carolina Agricultural Hall of Fame.
Bio by: John "J-Cat" Griffith