James K. Polk

11th President James K. Polk, 1845-184911th President James K. Polk, 1845-184911th President James K. Polk, 1845-184911th President James K. Polk, 1845-184911th President James K. Polk, 1845-1849

11th President James K. Polk, 1845-1849

11th President of the United States
(March 4, 1845 to March 4, 1849)

Full Name: James Knox Polk
Nickname: "Young Hickory"

Born: November 2, 1795, in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina
Died: June 15, 1849, in Nashville, Tennessee

Father: Samuel Polk (1768-1827)
Mother: Jane Gracy Knox Polk (1776-1852)
Married: Sarah Childress (1803-1891), on January 1, 1824
Children: None

Religion: Presbyterian
Education: Graduated from the University of North Carolina (1818)
Occupation: Lawyer
Political Party: Democrat
Other Government Positions:

  • Member of Tennessee House of Representatives, 1823-25
  • Member of U.S. House of Representatives, 1825-39
  • Speaker of the House, 1835-39
  • Governor of Tennessee, 1839-41

Presidential Salary: $25,000/year

Presidential Election Results:

YearCandidatePopular VotesElectoral Votes
1844James K. Polk1,338,464170
(map)Henry Clay1,300,097105

Vice President: George M. Dallas (1845-1849)


Secretary of State
James Buchanan (1845-1849)
Secretary of the Treasury
Robert J. Walker (1845-1849)
Secretary of War
William L. Marcy (1845-1849)
Attorney General
John Y. Mason (1845-46)
Nathan Clifford (1846-48)
Isaac Toucey (1848-49)
Postmaster General
Cave Johnson (1845-1849)
Secretary of the Navy
George Bancroft (1845-46)
John Y. Mason (1846-49)

Supreme Court Justices:
Levi Woodbury (1845-1851)
Robert Cooper Grier (1846-1870)

Notable Events:
  • 1846
  • 1847
  • 1848
    • On January 24, gold discovered in California. Polk confirmed the discovery in a Congressional address on December 5.
    • On February 2, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo signed to end the Mexican-American War. The U.S. took control over territory that became California, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and parts of Colorado and Wyoming.
Internet Biographies:
James K. Polk -- from The Presidents of the United States of America
Compiled by the White House.
James Polk -- from The American President
From the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, in addition to information on the Presidents themselves, they have first lady and cabinet member biographies, listings of presidential staff and advisers, and timelines detailing significant events in the lives of each administration.
James K. Polk -- from Encyclopaedia Britannica
Facts about Polk and his presidency.
James Knox Polk -- from People in THE WEST
Based on the documentary THE WEST by Ken Burns and Stephen Ives, this biographical sketch focuses on Polk's role in expanding the U.S. borders westward.
James K. Polk -- from the North Carolina Encyclopedia
A text-rich biography on this North Carolina native.
Historical Documents:
Inaugural Address (1845)
War Message (1846)
James K. Polk Digital Collections - from the Library of Congress


Other Internet Resources:
The Best Biographies of James Polk
In 2012, Stephen Floyd started his search for the best biography of each president. He usually has reviews of multiple biographies for each president.
Health and Medical History of James Polk
Medical background of each president with references. Compiled by John Sotos, MD.
President James K. Polk Home and Museum
The only surviving Polk residence (other than the White House) provides tours, exhibitions, and events.
President James K. Polk State Historic Site
Located on land once owned by Polk's parents, there is a reconstructed log house and visitor center.
Points of Interest:

301 West 7th Street, Columbia, Tennessee

600 Charlotte Avenue, Nashville, Tennessee

12031 Lancaster Hwy, Pineville, NC 28134

Additional Facts:
  • A week before he died, Polk was baptized a Methodist.
  • Gaslights were installed in the White House while Polk was a resident.
  • Polk survived a bladder stone operation at age 17 without anesthesia or antiseptics. Those medical practices were not used at the time.
  • The first annual White House Thanksgiving dinner was hosted by Sarah Polk.
  • Sarah Polk was a devout Presbyterian. She banned dancing, card-playing and alcoholic beverages in the White House.
  • News of Polk's nomination was widely disseminated using the telegraph. The first time this had been done.
  • Polk's mother, Jane, was the first parent to outlive their presidential offspring.

“With me it is exceptionally true that the Presidency is no bed of roses.”

“I am heartily rejoiced that my term is so near its close. I will soon cease to be a servant and will become a sovereign.”

Previous President: John Tyler
Next President: Zachary Taylor