Some James K. Polk kin oppose disinterring, moving body

The New York Times has done a lengthy article on the proposal to move the bodies of President James K. Polk and his wife from the Tennessee state capitol grounds to his parents’ home in Columbia, including comments from a Polk descendant lobbying against the relocation.

As the article notes, a legislative resolution (SJR141) declaring the General Assembly’s approval of moving the remains is scheduled for a Senate floor vote Monday evening.  It was scheduled for a vote Thursday, but the Senate adjourned before taking it up.


Supporters say the move will properly honor an unjustly overlooked president, a man who expanded the territory of the United States by a third, signed a law establishing the Smithsonian Institution and created the Naval Academy.

Opponents, including Teresa Elam, 65, a distant relative of Polk’s, are calling it nothing short of macabre, and an unsavory effort to promote tourism in Columbia, a city of 37,000 about 50 miles south of Nashville that is otherwise known for a colorful yearly celebration of its mule-breeding industry.

“They’re desecrating a grave,” said Ms. Elam, who has walked the halls of the Capitol with a sheaf full of historical documents, making her case to lawmakers. “It’s been on the Capitol grounds for about 124 years. It’s dishonor and disrespect.”

The Tennessean on Saturday, a day after the Times article appeared, did its own report on the issue, also quoting Elam along with another distant relative of the late president, Bill Mason.

Elam said she’s spoken to more than a dozen other descendants who are just as upset as she is. She described relocating the remains as “despicable” and only “using remains for a pony show.” Mason said it’s rare for any set of remains to be moved, much less three times.

“I wouldn’t want any relative of mine — lowly or high-born — treated that way,” Mason said.

Elam and Mason said there are very few ideas in their mind that would sway them. The only suggestion Elam offered would be to create a “complete total perfect replica” in Columbia of the memorial that lies on the Capitol grounds.

Note: A previous post HERE.

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