11. James K. Polk

The Periodic Table of the Presidents - James K. Polk   James K. Polk Official Portrait - The Periodic Table of the Presidents

“Young Hickory”

Presidential Basics

  • Full name: James Knox Polk
  • Years in office: 1845–1849
  • Political party: Democratic
  • Vice president: George M. Dallas
  • Age at inauguration: 49
  • Nickname: “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.

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 (September 4, 1803 – August 14, 1891)
  • Marriage: January 1, 1824 in Murfreesboro, 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
    • B.A. from the University of North Carolina (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.

Quantum Jump

Spotlight Artifact

Campaign Poster

James K. Polk, The Peoples Candidate for President, hand-colored lithograph by N. Currier, c.1844 LOC


James K. Polk: The Peoples Candidate for President, hand-colored lithograph by N. Currier, c. 1844

(Library of Congress)













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