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Lawmakers urge that ex-president James Polk be exhumed again

April 12, 2018

FILE - In a March 24, 2017 file photo, visitors look at the burial place of President James K. Polk and his wife, Sarah Polk, on the grounds of the state Capitol in Nashville, Tenn. The body of former president James K. Polk has been moved three times since he died of cholera in 1849, and now an effort to move it again has taken on a life of its own in the Tennessee Legislature. A much-debated resolution urging that his remains be moved to a fourth resting place appeared dead in March 2018, but was resurrected before winning final approval Monday night, April 9, 2018, in the House. (AP Photo/Erik Schelzig, File)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Nearly 170 years after President James K. Polk died, the Tennessee Legislature is urging that his remains be exhumed and taken to a fourth resting place — but it might take a while longer before the shovels hit the ground.

It took more than a year of fighting over the remains of American’s 11th president, but the Tennessee Senate on Thursday agreed to the House version of a resolution recommending that Polk be moved yet again. Lawmakers remained very much divided over the idea — as do others outside the legislative body. The vote was 18-14.

In life, Polk was known for dramatically expanding the country’s borders by annexing Texas and seizing California and the Southwest in the war with Mexico. But in death, the former president has not been able to rest in pace.

Polk died of cholera in 1849, just months after he left the White House. He was first laid to rest in what is now the Nashville City Cemetery because of an ordinance that said that people who died of infectious diseases had to be buried on the outskirts of town. Later, he was moved to a tomb in the yard of his Nashville mansion, Polk Place, as he requested in his will. But the bodies of Polk and his wife had to be moved to the grounds of the Capitol in 1893 after the home was sold outside the family. It has since been demolished.

The resolution urges that the bodies be dug up and moved to the Polk museum in Columbia, about 50 miles away.

The Tennessee Historical Commission, the state Capitol Commission and a court would have to approve of the move.

Lawmakers added an amendment saying that the project must be overseen by the state’s Division of Archaeology and the Department of Environment and Conservation if approval comes.

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