James Polk with Ham

11th PRESIDENT

NAME: James Knox Polk. He was named after his maternal grandfather, James Knox, a militia captain during the American Revolution.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: A bit under medium height but sturdily built and erect in bearing, Polk had large, deeply set gray eyes, a high prominent forehead, high cheekbones, thin lips, and a rather large nose. His unruly black hair, which had grayed by the time he became president, was worn long and combed straight back. From childhood, his health was generally poor; he tired easily.

PERSONALITY: Polk was by nature an introvert but out of political necessity forced himself to mingle. He had few¬†genuinely¬†close friends. Still, he was generally well liked. A classic overachiever, he was very ambitious. Biographer Charles G. Sellers attributed his “feverish drive” to “early physical inferiority,” “frustrations of his boyish aspirations,” and charisma, he, according to Sellers, “drove himself ruthlessly, exploiting the abilities and energies he did possess to an extent that few men can equal.” Yet he kept a firm rein on his ambition, never letting it threaten his career.

SOURCE: DeGregorio, William A. The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents. 7th ed. Fort Lee: Barricade Books, 2009.

James Polk with Ham

John Tyler Zachary Taylor