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Wednesday, 29 March 2017

James K. Polk


James Polk was born in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina on November 2, 1795.

November 2 is the only date that was the birthday of two US presidents: Warren Harding (born 1865) and James Polk (1795).

James k Polk By Minor K. Kellogg -

James' father, Samuel Polk, was a slaveholder, successful farmer and surveyor of Scots-Irish descent.

His mother, Jane Polk (née Knox), was a descendant of a brother of John Knox, the man who brought the Protestant Reformation to Scotland. She named her firstborn after her father James Knox.

Polk went to the University of North Carolina.


On January 1, 1824, James Polk married Sarah Childress at the plantation home of the bride's parents near Murfreesboro. Polk was then 28, and Sarah was 20 years old They had no children, but raised a nephew as if it were their own child.

Sarah assisted her husband with his speeches, gave him advice on policy matters and played an active role in his campaigns.

James K. Polk and Sarah Childress Polk.
Polk devoted his life to politics. His only recreation appears to have been horse riding as he had one as a pet. It is reported that Polk made his own leather riding saddle.


After graduating, Polk traveled to Nashville to study law under renowned Nashville trial attorney Felix Grundy.

Polk was licensed to practice law in June 1820. His first case was to defend his father against a public fighting charge. Polk secured his client's release for a one-dollar fine.

After building a successful law practice, Polk was elected to the Tennessee legislature and then to the United States House of Representatives in 1825.

The house where Polk spent his adult life before his presidency, in Columbia, Tennessee, is his only private residence still standing. It is now known as the James K. Polk Ancestral Home. The James K. Polk House is located just west of the commercial central downtown area of Columbia, at the southwest corner of West 7th and South High Streets.  James lived in the house until 1819, when he left to read law in Nashville, and for a time after his return to Columbia, where he opened his law practice. The house remained in the Polk family for many years.
The James K. Polk National Historic Site, By ProhibitOnions at the English language Wikipedia, 
A leading Democrat, Polk served as the 13th Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1835 to 1839, making him the only president to have also served as Speaker.

Polk left Congress to serve as Governor of Tennessee from 1839 to 1841.

Polk won the presidential nomination as a compromise candidate among the various party factions in 1844. In the general election, he defeated Henry Clay of the rival Whig Party in large part due to his promise to annex the Republic of Texas.


James K. Polk's inauguration was the first to be covered by telegraph. The picture below appeared in the Illustrated London News, which was the first newspaper known to feature an illustration of the inauguration.

The inauguration of James K. Polk, as shown in the Illustrated London News.

James K. Polk was the first US president to have his photograph taken, when on February 14, 1849, he had his picture taken by photographer, Matthew Brady.

After becoming president Polk gave his full attention to all the promises and missions he had set out to do.

During his presidency, the U.S. gained a lot of land. When Mexico rejected the annexation of Texas by the United States, Polk declared war on the country and led the U.S. through the Mexican-American War. He achieved a sweeping victory, which resulted in the cession by Mexico of nearly the whole of what is now the American Southwest.

Gas lighting was installed in the White House, replacing candles and oil lamps during Polk's presidency. Polk turned on the White House's first gas light on December 29, 1848.

True to his campaign pledge to serve only one term as President, Polk left office after four years. and returned to Tennessee.

Polk is respected by historians because he made four promises during his presidential campaign and accomplished all of them.


When James K. Polk's presidential term ended on March 4, 1849, a Sunday, his successor, Zachary Taylor, an Episcopalian, refused to take the presidential oath of office on the Sabbath. This led to a curious situation in which the United States was "without" a president for a day.

Polk is believed to have contracted cholera in New Orleans, Louisiana, on a goodwill tour of the South after leaving the White House. He died of cholera at his new home, Polk Place, in Nashville, Tennessee, at 3:15 pm on June 15, 1849.

Polk died 103 days after leaving office and has the shortest retirement of any president.

Polk was the youngest former president to die in retirement at the age of 53 (only James A. Garfield and John F. Kennedy, who were assassinated in office, died at a younger age).

Polk was laid to rest in Nashville, Tennessee. He is the only president buried on the grounds of a state capital.

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