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.”

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