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11th U.S. President James K. Polk

About the eleventh President of the United States James K. Polk, his birth, death, biography, description, facts and quotes.

11th President JAMES KNOX POLK

Born: November 2, 1795, in Mecklenburg County, N.C.

Died: June 15, 1849, at his home near Nashville, Tenn. The cause of death was officially listed as "diarrhea."

Career: Son of a prominent planter, Tennessee lawyer, State legislator at 27, follower of Andrew Jackson, congressman, speaker of the House, governor of Tennessee, defeated in a bid for the vice-presidential nomination in 1840.

Personal Life: During 25 years of marriage, Sarah Childress Polk devoted all her energies to working at her husband's side. The Polks never had children. In the White House, Sarah served as Polk's personal secretary and they worked together 12 to 14 hours a day. A devout Presbyterian, Sarah banned all drinking and dancing at the White House. Polk's last words were addressed to her: "I love you, Sarah, for all eternity, I love you."

His Person: About 5'8" tall, slight build; his clothes always seemed too large for him. Cold gray eyes, grim mouth. A compulsive worker with no sense of humor.

Election: In 1844, former President Andrew Jackson personally engineered the nomination of the dark horse, Polk, over a number of better-known candidates. In the general election, the popular vote was 1,338,464 for Democrat Polk, with 1,300,097 for his Whig opponent, Henry Clay. The Electoral College margin was 170 to 105. The major issue of the campaign was expansionism-Polk came out strongly for a U.S. takeover of Texas and Oregon. During his Presidency, he managed to fulfill his key campaign promises.

Term of Office: March 4, 1845-March 4, 1849. Polk was so exhausted by his 4-year ordeal that he died just 3 months after leaving office.

Little-Known Facts: At the inaugural ball, in deference to Mrs. Polk's religious convictions, dancing and music were halted when the Polks entered, then resumed 2 hours later after they had left.

Quote from Polk:

"I prefer to supervise the whole operations of the Government myself rather than entrust the public business to subordinates and this makes my duties very great."

Quote about Him:

"Polk's mind was rigid, narrow, obstinate, far from 1st-rate.....But he knew how to get things done, which is the 1st necessity of Government, and he knew what he wanted done, which is the 2nd."-Historian Bernard De Voto

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