About the Polks

Few people have accomplished more in their political career than James K. Polk. As a U.S. Congressman, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Governor of Tennessee, and by age 49, President of the United States, he had his wife Sarah by his side acting as his closest advisor. Together they changed America, doing much to expand its boundaries from Atlantic to Pacific.


November 2, 1795

Born in Pineville, NC


Graduated from the University of North Carolina


Admitted to the bar and began a law practice in Columbia, TN


Served in the Tennessee State Legislature

January 1, 1824

Married Sarah Childress


Served in the U.S. House of Representatives including two terms as Speaker (1835–1839)


Served as Governor of Tennessee


Served as President of the United States

June 15, 1849

Died in Nashville, TN

Who was James K. Polk

Who was James K. Polk

Born in 1795, James Polk served 7 terms as a US Congressman, twice as Speaker of the House, the governor of Tennessee, and was the infamous Dark Horse candidate for president in 1844. Though he served one term (as a campaign promise), he oversaw the greatest expansion of US territory in United States history, the first US invasion of another country, and established the independent treasury.

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Sarah Childress Polk Portrait

Who was Sarah Polk?

Sarah’s education and political interests were assets for her ambitious husband. During James K. Polk’s years as a Congressman, Tennessee Governor, and eventually President, Sarah served as his unofficial advisor and secretary. Because she could intelligently converse about government, she earned the respect of the era’s prominent politicians.

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Fun Facts

During Polk’s tenure as President, three states were added, the first Women’s Rights Convention was held, the sewing machine, gas lighting, and the rotary printing press were invented, and the Gold Rush began.

James K. Polk was the first president to be elected under the age of 50.

James K. Polk is the only Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives to become President of the United States.

James K. Polk was the youngest president to die outside those that have been assassinated.

James K. Polk started the Naval Academy, commissioned the Washington Monument, and issued the first postage stamp.

James K. Polk had surgery as a 17 year old boy to remove urinary bladder stones. Anesthesia was not invented until he was President…he was awake for the procedure!

James K. Polk graduated first in the class of 1818 at the University of North Carolina despite not going to school until he was 17 years old.

James K. Polk had the shortest retirement of all the U.S. Presidents…three months. His wife Sarah outlived him by forty-two years making her the longest widowed First Lady in American history.

Walk-in Tours Daily.

Join our knowledgeable docents to explore a pivotal time in U.S. history through the stories, and artifacts of our 11th president.

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Frederick Douglass: An Opposing Perspective On May 1, 1845, about three months into James K. Polk’s single term…

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