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James K. Polk

1845-1849

n Born November 2, 11795 at Mecklenburg Co., NC; died June 15, 1849 in Nashville, Tennessee, just three months after he retired as president. He was buried at the Tennessee State Capitol, Nashville, TN. He had served a most successful presidency, but it appeared Polk’s uncompromising zeal for work had broken his health.

n He married Sarah Childress Polk and they had no children.

n He attended the University of NC, Chapel Hill.

His occupations were Law Clerk, Lawyer, Governor of TN, Congressman, Speaker of the House.

n James Knox Polk became the United States’ 11th president on March 4, 1845 and was often referred to as the first “dark horse” candidate. He was the last of the Jacksonians to sit in the White House.

n The Democratic Convention of 1844 required its presidential candidate get 2/3 of the delegate vote. Former President Martin Van Buren expected and almost won the party support. When he couldn’t get the necessary votes, the convention swung to Polk, who had been a Tennessee legislator, congressman and governor.

n Soon after taking office, Polk sent troops to the Texas-Mexican border, which was in dispute and clashes led to war. He declared war on Mexico in 1846, and the US Army fought all the way to Mexico City before the Mexican government agreed to a peace treaty that gave the US California and the area then called New Mexico (including Arizona and parts of Colorado and Nevada) for $15 million.

n A few months later, the Oregon boundary was agreed to, and the march to the Pacific was complete. It wasn’t long before gold was discovered in California, and the migration west really started.

n Texas, Iowa and Wisconsin were added to the Union in 1846 and 1848.

n Polk was extremely formal, but they had a real knack for hard work. In his four years as president, his hair completely grayed and his originally-pink complexion became sallow, as lines in his face deepened considerably.

Compiled by Phyllis Stowers, Lifestyles Editor for The Lincoln Journal.

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