11. James K. Polk

“Young Hickory”


collaboration with bobblehead george

Presidential Basics

  • Full name: James Knox Polk
  • Years in office: 1845–1849
  • Political party: Democratic
  • Vice president: George M. Dallas
  • Age at inauguration: 49
  • Nicknames: “Young Hickory,” “Napoleon of the Stump”

Random Trivia

  • Just once: Polk promised during the campaign that he would only serve only one term if elected.
  • The Dark Horse: Polk was not expected to win the election.  Read more about Polk as president here.

Birth & Death

  • Birthday: November 2, 1795
  • Birthplace: Mecklenburg County, North Carolina
  • Death date:  June 15, 1849
  • Place of death: Nashville, Tennessee
  • Place of burial: State Capitol Grounds in Nashville, Tennessee
  • Last words: “I love you, Sarah. For all eternity, I love you.”


  • Father: Samuel Polk (1772–1827); Farmer
  • Mother: Jane Knox Polk (1776–1852)
  • Wife: Sarah Childress (1803 – 1891)
  • Marriage: January 1, 1824 in Tennessee
  • Kids: None
  • Home: Polk House in Columbia, Tennessee

Other Facts

  • Height: 5’8″
  • Eye color: Gray
  • Ancestry: Scotch-Irish
  • Religion: Presbyterian
  • Born in a log cabin: No
  • Owned enslaved people: Yes
  • Freemason: Yes


  • Early education: Private school
  • College degree: Yes
  • College:  University of North Carolina (graduated with B.A. in 1818); studied law


  • Military Service: Yes
  • Lawyer: Yes
  • Lawyer (1820–)
  • Member of the Tennessee Legislature (1823–1825)
  • Member of the U.S. House of Representatives (1825–1839)
  • Speaker of the House (1835–1839)
  • Governor of Tennessee (1839–1841)
  • President (1845–1849)


  • The Diary of James K. Polk; Correspondence of James K. Polk


James K. Polk was our country’s first dark-horse candidate to win the presidency.  His close political ties to Andrew Jackson earned him the nickname “Young Hickory.”  He agreed with Jackson on the importance of territorial expansion.

His main opponent was Whig candidate Henry Clay.  Clay was favored, but failed to take a stance on expansion and Texas Annexation. As a result, Polk was elected.  He kept his campaign promise to only serve one term in office.

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