Documenting the American South

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Signature of James L. Dusenbery and several photographs artistically combined.

Polk, James Knox

James Knox Polk (1795-1849) was born in Mecklenburg County, NC. In 1806 his family moved to Tennessee, where Polk attended Presbyterian academies in Columbia and Murfreesboro. He entered the University as a sophomore in 1815 and was admitted to membership in the Dialectic Society on January 25, 1816. He graduated first in his class of fourteen students in 1818 and returned to Tennessee to study law with Felix Grundy in Nashville. Winning election to the Tennessee legislature in 1823, Polk subsequently served in the US House of Representatives from 1825 to 1839, becoming speaker for the Twenty-Fourth and Twenty-Fifth Congresses. A Jacksonian Democrat, he was elected governor of Tennessee in 1839 but was defeated by Whig candidate James C. Jones in 1841 and again in 1843. Narrowly defeating Henry Clay in 1845, Polk became the eleventh President of the United States at the age of forty-nine. Serving one term, Polk died shortly after returning home to Nashville (<hi rend="italics">Dictionary of North Carolina Biography</hi> 5:107-09).





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