James Knox Polk
Cause of Death Age Burial Location President Grave #
Cholera 53 Nashville, Tennessee 30th visited

James Polk was once buried on the grounds
of his Nashville house, but his remains were
relocated to the state capitol when the
residence was demolished. I took this
photograph when my father and I revisited
Polk's grave in June of 2013.

Sarah Polk outlived her husband by forty-two
years and wore nothing but black clothing
during that time span. Her widowhood remains
the longest of any American first lady.

Polk was president of the United
States during the Mexican- American
War, and Texas was admitted as
a state when he was in office.

With time to kill before our flight home, my
father and I returned to Polk's burial site the
day after we first visited it. Here, I am wearing
a shirt from the Hermitage, Andrew Jackson's
home, which we had also seen the day before.

                                       *** Interesting Facts ***

* Polk was a sickly child. At age sixteen, James was in an indescribable amount of pain, so his father took him to a surgeon. On the long journey, the future president's condition grew worse, so his father was forced to find another doctor, one that was close by. The doctor gave Polk some brandy, and operated with Polk awake. The surgery was successful, and the doctor removed the trouble, which turned out to be kidney stones. However, he and his wife Sarah never had any children, so it is believed that the surgery left the president sterile.

* James Polk was certainly qualified to be the president of the United States. Entering politics in his late twenties, he started out as a member of the Tennessee state legislature before he ascended to the U.S. House of Representatives. He served there for fourteen years, and was the speaker of the House for over three years. In 1839, he became the governor of Tennessee, and held that position until 1841. A dark horse candidate for the Democrats, Polk faced a well-known Kentucky senator, Henry Clay. Playing on Polk's obscurity (despite all of his accomplishments), the Whigs came up with the slogan "James K. Who?". This tactic did not work, and Polk won the White House. Henry Clay lost his third and final bid for the presidency.

* One of Polk's greatest achievements as president was expanding the United States and putting an end to its border disputes. Ever since the commencement of the Texas Revolution, Mexico and the United States had feuded over the land which became the Lone Star State. When the land was annexed in 1845, Mexico still remained bitter and wanted it back. Taking advantage of an attack by Mexican cavalrymen at the Rio Grande, Polk pushed Congress to declare war on the country. The U.S. was victorious, and the Mexico-Texas border was reaffirmed. Polk also oversaw the acquisitions of California, New Mexico, and Oregon, all of which eventually became states. Arguments over the latter territory inspired the famous slogan "Fifty-four Forty or Fight!", which refers to its geographic location on a globe.

* While Jimmy Carter holds the distinction for having the longest retirement from the presidency, Polk had the shortest. In 1848, Polk fulfilled his final campaign promise by not seeking a second term. Shortly after handing over the reigns to his successor, Polk embarked on a journey that took him through the southern states. Unfortunately, the former president stopped in the city of New Orleans, where a cholera epidemic had broken out. Polk contracted the disease, and was taken back to his home in Tennessee. It was too late though. James K. Polk died on June 15, 1849, just 103 days after leaving the presidency.

First Lady: Sarah Childress Polk

  - Spouse: Sarah Childress Polk (m. 1824-1849)

Political Party:
Democratic Part

Vice President:
George Mifflin Dallas

Last Words:
"I love you, Sarah, for all eternity, I love you."

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