November 2, 1795 - June 15, 1849

Pineville, North Carolina

James Knox Polk (November 2, 1795 – June 15, 1849) was the 11th President of the United States (1845–49). Polk was born in Pineville, North Carolina, and moved to Tennessee to study law. After building a successful law practice, he was elected to the Tennessee legislature and then to the United States House of Representatives in 1825. A leading Democrat and close ally of Andrew Jackson during the Second Party System, Polk served as the 13th Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1835 to 1839, making him the only president to have also served as Speaker. He left Congress to serve as Governor of Tennessee from 1839 to 1841. After losing re-election as governor in 1840, and losing in another gubernatorial election in 1842, Polk was a dark horse candidate for president in 1844. Though he entered the convention hoping to be nominated for vice president, he won the presidential nomination as a compromise candidate among the various party factions. In the general election, he defeated Henry Clay of the rival Whig Party in large part due to his promise to annex the Republic of Texas. True to his campaign pledge to serve only one term as President, Polk left office in March 1849 and returned to Tennessee. He died of cholera three months later.