James K. PoLK-1845-1849
• Born: November 2nd, 1795, Mecklenburg County, NC
• Died: June 15th, 1849, Nashville, TN
• Married to: Sarah Childress Polk
• Children: none
• College: University of N.C., Chapel Hill
• Other occupations: Law Clerk, Lawyer, Governor of TN, Congressman, Speaker of the House
• Party affiliation: Democrat
• Vice President: George Mifflin Dallas
• Burial site: Tennessee State Capitol, Nashville, TN
James Knox Polk became the United States’ 11th president on March 4, 1845. He was often referred to as the first “dark horse” candidate, and he was the last of the Jacksonians to sit in the White House.
The Democratic Convention of 1844 required that its presidential candidate get two-thirds of the delegate vote. Former President Martin Van Buren expected and almost won the party support. When he could not get the necessary votes, the convention swung to Polk, who had been a Tennessee legislator, congressman and governor. Soon after taking office, Polk sent troops to the Texas-Mexican border which was in dispute, and clashes there led to war. He declared war on Mexico in 1846, and the U.S. Army fought all the way to Mexico City before the Mexican government agreed to a peace treaty that gave the United States California and the area then called New Mexico (including Arizona and parts of Colorado and Nevada) for $15 million.
A few months later, the Oregon boundary was agreed to, and the march to the Pacific was complete. It was not long before gold was discovered in California, and the migration west really started.
Texas, Iowa and Wisconsin were added to the Union in 1846 and 1848.
Polk was extremely formal but 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.
He had served a most successful presidency, but it appeared that Polk’s uncompromising zeal for work had broken his health.
He died January 15, 1849, in Nashville, Tennessee, just three months after he retired as president.