James K. Polk: Top 10 Fun Facts About America's 11th Commander In Chief

Date May 5, 2020 12:42

Many people consider James K. Polk one of the best American presidents in history. Polk had served as the 11th Commander in Chief from 1845 until 1849. Even though it was just one term, James K. Polk’s presidency had brought many substantial changes to the country.

He was one of the very few political leaders, who achieved everything that he promised during his campaign. Generally, Polk’s biggest accomplishments are considered to be his leadership during the Mexican War and adding new territories to the United States.

Let’s check out James K. Polk’s most interesting facts to learn more about the great leader.

James K. Polk: fun facts

James K. Polk: Top 10 Fun Facts About America's 11th Commander In Chiefrook76 / Shutterstock.com

James K. Polk was a very powerful and willful man but, like everyone, he had his flaws. Here are the top 10 facts about America’s 11th President you might not know:

  • born in Pineville, North Carolina, he was the oldest of 10 children;
  • the K in his name stands for Knox;
  • at 17, he had a serious surgery during which his urinary bladder stones were removed without any anesthesia or sterilization;
  • he was a pre-eminent student, finishing the University of North Carolina at the top of his class;
  • in 1845, John O'Sullivan stated that America’s destiny was to expand from the Atlantic to Pacific oceans and Polk helped to fulfill this destiny by negotiating the Oregon Territory with Brits and the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo;
  • in 1846, he declared war with Mexico, which lasted for 2 years and ended with the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo that allowed the US to get one third of Mexico’s territory, including California, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Nevada;
  • during Polk’s presidency, any American citizen was allowed to visit the White House with any issue during “office hours”;
  • Polk refused to drink during social gatherings, which led him to gain a reputation of being incredibly boring;
  • he helped to set up the U.S. Naval Academy, build the famous Washington Monument, and introduce the country to the postage stamp;
  • James K. Polk’s wife, Sarah, was the first president’s spouse to host Thanksgiving dinner in the White House.

Speaking of Polk’s wife, she was a very educated woman, who helped him with speeches throughout his presidency. Sarah was an important figure in James’ life. She was his communications director and more often than not talked to other politicians on his behalf.

James K. Polk was extremely unlikable amongst his people but Americans loved his wife. She was modest, religious, and down-to-earth, or at least was very good at pretending to be so. It’s very hard to imagine Polk would have achieved a political success without her.

James K. Polk: after presidency

Polk promised he would serve no longer than one term and that’s what he did. After giving the reigns to Zachary Taylor, he returned to his home in Nashville. His health was poor at that time and the former American leader lived only for 3 more months before he passed away at 53.

It’s likely that the cause of his death was cholera. Yet, his wife didn’t catch it. She outlived James for over 40 years. Despite some rumors, she never remarried and remained faithful to her legendary husband till the rest of her life.