Group seeks third relocation of James K. Polk's grave

By Eric DuVall  |  Updated April 1, 2017 at 7:43 PM
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April 1 (UPI) -- For a third time, the "final" resting place of James K. Polk, the nation's 11th president, may be moved after a vote of the Tennessee state Senate.

Polk's long and strange posthumous story began just 24 hours after his death in 1849. Polk died suddenly in Nashville after contracting cholera and was buried in a mass grave just a few months after leaving office.

Polk's inglorious burial was due to laws at the time that required those dying of infectious disease to be buried within 24 hours to help prevent its spread.

A year later, Polk's tomb was removed from the mass grave and buried on the grounds of his Nashville home, in accordance with his will. After a legal dispute following the death of Polk's wife, the home was sold and Polk's remains were moved to the grounds of the state Capitol.

Now, some historians and descendants argue his remains should be moved a third time, to what they promise will be the ultimate final resting place, on the grounds of the museum dedicated to his memory in his hometown of Columbia, Tenn.

The Tennessee state Senate voted to approve the relocation, the first step in approving the move, though some members of Polk's extended family objected.

"Every step they take is one step toward grave robbery," Teresa Elam, a seventh-generation niece of Polk, told The Tennessean. "It would be like taking someone out of Arlington [National Cemetery] and taking them to the family farm and putting them behind the barn."

Academics said relocating Polk's grave to the museum in Columbia would increase tourism and awareness of his four years in the White House. Polk pledged when running that if he completed his list of reforms and objectives, he would not run for a second term. Having done that, he remained a man of his word and did not run for re-election.

Historians lamented interest in Polk is much lower than another Tennessean, Andrew Jackson, the nation's ninth president.

Before the move can be made, it requires the approval of local government and the Tennessee Historical Commission.

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