State May Dig Up Body of US President—for 3rd Time

James K. Polk's final resting place has proven to be anything but
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 28, 2017 4:40 PM CDT
Updated Apr 1, 2017 9:10 AM CDT
State May Dig Up Body of US President—for 4th Time
The burial place of President James K. Polk and his wife, Sarah Polk, on the grounds of the state Capitol in Nashville, Tenn.   (AP Photo/Erik Schelzig, File)

If James K. Polk doesn't already hold the record for most burials of a former US president, there's little doubt he soon will. The Tennessee Senate voted 20-6 Monday to allow the remains of the 11th president to be exhumed and reburied—for the third time, the AP reports. Unsurprisingly, the repeated digging up of a president hasn't been without controversy. According to the Washington Post, Polk died of cholera in 1849 and was quickly buried in a mass grave in Nashville City Cemetery. Laws at the time required people who died of infectious diseases to be buried within 24 hours. A year later, his body was reburied at his home in Nashville as specified in his will, the Tennessean reports. Polk's remains were moved again in 1891 after a family fight resulted in his home being sold and eventually becoming a hotel.

The idea to move Polk's remains a third time—from the grounds of the state Capitol to his family's home in Columbia—comes from Tom Price, the curator of the James K. Polk Home and Museum. He says the move will help better preserve Polk's legacy and improve awareness of the former president—and maybe even increase visits to the museum, which lag far behind those to Andrew Jackson's nearby home. But some of Polk's descendants are against the move, calling it "degrading" and akin to "grave robbery." The resolution to exhume and relocate Polk's remains still needs to be approved by a court, the state's House of Representatives, and the Tennessee Historical Society. (More Tennessee stories.)

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