Lawmakers resurrect bid to exhume Polk

The James K. Polk tomb, bottom right, as seen from a lawmaker’s office in the Cordell Hull building in Nashville on Feb. 28, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A resolution calling for President James K. Polk’s body to be exhumed from his tomb on the state Capitol grounds has been resurrected in the House.

The State Government Subcommittee last week voted to send the measure to a summer study committee, ostensibly killing it for the year. On Wednesday the panel voted to bring it back without explanation and then voted it to advance it to the full committee.

Supporters want to move the bodies of Polk and his wife to Columbia, where he spent some of his youth. Opponents argue that the former president’s will had called for being buried on the property of his home in Nashville. That house was later sold and the Polks were moved to the state Capitol grounds.

The Polk tomb within the view of lawmakers occupying offices on the western side of the Cordell Hull legislative office building. Supporters of moving the bodies want to replace the tomb with a statue.

Note: See also the Columbia Daily Herald, which has Tom Price, former curator of the James K. Polk Home and Museum, and newly appointed director of the Maury County Archives, giving credit for the measure’s resurrection to House Speaker Beth Harwell and Rep. Michael Cricio (R-Dickson).

The revised version, approved by the subcommittee on Wednesday, includes the added requirement that a state archeologist must be present for the relocation process.

“We are excited about it, and will work hard behind the scenes to give as much support as we can,” Price said. “Polk wanted to be buried where his legacy resided. But since his home in Nashville was sold outside of the family and torn down in 1901, the Polk Home in Columbia is the only home still standing other than the White House that he ever lived in. That is the place where people come and learn about his life and legacy.”

9 Responses to Lawmakers resurrect bid to exhume Polk

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    Henry Walker says:

    The subcommittee reversed itself without discussion ? Too bad there’s not a reporter around to corner some of the members and ask them why they did it.

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    Erik Schelzig says:

    They don’t take kindly to reporters asking questions while the committee is going on.

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    Norma Shirk says:

    Let the guy rest in peace!

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    Rik Bolo says:

    Lol Norma

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    Wayne Cook says:

    If I’m not mistaken, Polk Place (his final home, if briefly) was located within view of the capitol. President Polk’s wishes were to be buried in Nashville, not Columbia. Why not let the man rest in peace?

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    Donna Locke says:

    I have seen erroneous reporting elsewhere that claims Polk never lived in the Columbia house in question–that is, in the now-well-preserved Polk Home his family built. Polk did live in it–after law school and before his marriage. He had a law office in Columbia; and unlike Nashville, the Columbia downtown, where the Polk Home is, would still be recognizable to him. Also, some furniture and stuff from his destroyed Nashville home is now in his Columbia home. So, this is the only home Polk has now in this world.

    We don’t know the Polks’ wishes now, but I think they would be fine with the placement of their remains in Columbia, where information about the wife, Sarah, has been researched, preserved, and taught along with education about the president. It is where ties to the past clearly remain.

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    Ed Lancaster says:

    Thank you Ms. Locke for those facts.
    For those of you jumping to the conclusion that this is a bad idea I’d ask that you do two things:
    1. Visit the present location of President Polk’s grave.
    2. Visit the Polk Home in Columbia, Tennessee.
    Then ask yourself which better honors the man and his family and educates the public about his presidency.
    If you have done both and still believe the Capitol grounds are best then we can respectfully disagree.

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    Donna Locke says:

    I heard an update by Tom Price on the radio this morning. Maury Countians had been asked to call Beth Harwell to resurrect the legislation, so I guess people contacted her. Price says quite a number of Polk relatives support the move and maybe one is in vocal opposition. He would know more about that than I, but more and more, I’m beginning to feel that Polk’s spirit may be giving a push toward return to Columbia.

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