House sub blocks push to disinter and relocate President James K. Polk’s body

The House State Government Subcommittee has rejected a legislative resolution authorizing disinterment of the bodies of President James K. Polk and his wife from a tomb on the state capitol grounds and moving them to Columbia.

Officially, the resolution (SJR141), which was approved last year by the Senate, was sent to “summer study” on motion of Rep. Darren Jernigan (D-Old Hickory), who said the measure basically has “the legislature caught in a family feud that started 125 years ago.” The Polk family, at that time, provided $1,500 for tomb expenses at the present location of the remains of James and Sarah Polk and the legislature endorsed the move, he said.

The effect of the “summer study” decision – on a voice vote with no recorded roll call — is to kill the resolution for this year, meaning proponents will have to start all over when the 111th General Assembly convenes in January, 2019.

Prior to the vote, there were brief statements from one opponent of the relocation and one proponent:  David Elam, whose wife, Teresa, is a Polk descendant, and Doug Jones, attorney for the James K. Polk Museum in Columbia.

Elam said relocation of the bodies would “desecrate the memory” of James and Sarah Polk and conflict with wishes expressed in their wills by moving the bodies to “his daddy’s home” in Columbia where the former president spent little time after his boyhood.

Jones said the relocation has strong support from officials throughout the state as well as “hundreds” of other Polk descendants. He emphasized that the legislature’s authorization is only the first step in a process required under state laws and court rulings dating back many decades. Even with the General Assembly’s authorization, moving the remains will still require approval of the State Capitol Commission, the Tennessee Historical Commission and, ultimately, the state court system.

And Jones said “a really nice statute of Mr. Polk, paid for by private donations” would be erected where the Polk tomb now sits.

The resolution was sponsored this year in the House by Rep. Michael Curcio (R-Dickson), who took it over from Rep. Shelia Butt (R-Columbia), last year’s sponsor. Curcio, whose district includes part of Maury County, had no comments in the subcommittee discussion, other than a brief opening explanation and saying he was “asked by my locals” to present the proposal. Sen. Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald) is Senate sponsor.

Note: The House sub vote was initially reported in the Tennessee Journal on Friday.

2 Responses to House sub blocks push to disinter and relocate President James K. Polk’s body

  • Carol Heimbach says:

    If it was against the wishes of James K. Polk, as stated by him, I think the bodies should remain and not be moved.

  • Michael Lottman says:

    I hope this defeat will be the end of the legislature’s entanglement with this (a) private and (b) inconsequential issue. James K. Polk can and will be remembered as a pretty good and very active president who virtually worked himself to death, even with the considerable assistance of his remarkable spouse. They should be allowed to rest in peace, especially since the issue is only their corporeal remains and not where their souls and spirits may reside or what memories we have of them.

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