Grateful American® Foundation

Who was the first 40something president to be elected?

November 15th

James_Polk_Presidential_$1_Coin_obverseNovember 5, 1844 — James K. Polk was 49 when he was elected the 11th president of the US today. During his tenure, three states were added, the first Women’s Rights Convention was held, the sewing machine,gas lighting, and the rotary printing press were invented, and the Gold Rush began.

A graduate of the first in the class of 1818 at the University of North Carolina, he actually didn’t start attending school until he was 17. The same year he had surgery to remove urinary bladder stones; anesthesia was not invented until he was president, so Polk was awake for the entire procedure.

Other claims to fame: Polk is the only Speaker of the US House of Representatives to become president. And, he had the shortest retirement of all the presidents — three months. On June 15, 1849, he died of cholera at his new home, in Nashville, TN, at 3:15pm, and was buried on the grounds of Polk Place.

His last words were to his wife: “I love you, Sarah.” She outlived him by 42 years, making her the longest widowed first lady in American presidential history.

Words of Wisdom

One great object of the Constitution was to restrain majorities from oppressing minorities or encroaching upon their just rights.

— James K. Polk

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