United States Presidents from Tennessee

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Three men from the State of Tennessee have served as President of the United States. Get a brief overview of who they were, when they served, and what they accomplished.

Three men from Tennessee have served as President of the United States. Although all three had long political careers, they came from different backgrounds. Andrew Jackson was a military hero, James K. Polk was a lawyer, and Andrew Johnson was a tailor.

Andrew Jackson of Tennessee – 7th President

Andrew Jackson, born in South Carolina on March 15, 1767, lost his father before he was born and lost his mother and both brothers during the Revolutionary War. He was injured himself when, after being captured, his arm was slashed with a sword after he refused to clean a British officer’s boots.

After the war, Jackson studied law and moved to Tennessee in 1788. Settling in Nashville, he established his law practice, engaged in business ventures, and purchased land including the Hermitage and married Rachel Donelson Robards. He played a role in helping Tennessee become the sixteenth state in 1796 and then served in the U.S House and U.S. Senate before becoming a judge on Tennessee’s Superior Court.

Jackson began his military career with the Tennessee militia in 1802 and became a national hero with his defeat of superior British forces in New Orleans in1815. He also put down Indian hostilities in the southern states, invaded Spanish Florida to quell Seminole Indian raids and briefly served as Governor of the Florida Territory.

Jackson served two terms as President, from 1829-1837. He is known for his fight against the chartering of banks, balancing the budget and, in one of the darker moments of his presidency, his participation in forcing the Cherokee Indians to move to Oklahoma in what is now known as the “Trail of Tears.”

Andrew Jackson died at the Hermitage on June 8, 1845, at the age of 78.

James K. Polk of Tennessee – 11th President

James Knox Polk was born in North Carolina in 1795 but moved with his family to Nashville at the age of eleven. He attended the University of North Carolina and graduated with honors in 1818.

Polk returned to Tennessee where he practiced law and served in the Tennessee legislature. Polk was later elected to the U.S. House of Representatives where he was one of President Jackson’s allies in his war on the banks. Serving as Speaker of the House from 1835 to 1839, he left Congress to serve as Governor of Tennessee.

James K. Polk entered the 1844 Democratic convention expecting nomination as their Vice President candidate but, because of his public support about annexing Texas and Andrew Jackson’s influence, he became the party’s presidential nominee on the ninth ballot. Winning the ticket’s top spot unexpectantly is why Polk is known as the “dark horse” candidate.

As the eleventh President of the United States, Polk greatly expanded the size of the counrty. He was successful in peacefully acquiring Oregon from Great Britain which extended the Canadian-U.S. border all the way to the Pacific. His negotiations with Mexico regarding Texas and California led to war between the two countries which lasted from 1846 to 1848. Mexico ceded California and New Mexico to the U.S.

James K. Polk died at his home in Nashville on June 15, 1849, just three months after leaving office.

Andrew Johnson of Tennessee – 17th President

Andrew Johnson was born on December 29, 1808, in North Carolina. He was apprenticed to a tailor but ran away from home at the age of 16. He settled in Greeneville, Tennessee where he opened a tailor shop and married Eliza McCardle.

Entering politics in his early 20s, Johnson held various positions from 1829 to 1844. He served as an alderman, a mayor and several terms in the Tennessee legislature before moving on to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1843 and becoming Governor of Tennessee in 1853.

It was while serving as a U.S. Senator that the Civil War broke out. Johnson was the only southern senator to stay in Washington. In 1862 Johnson was named military governor of Tennessee but, in 1864, he ran as Abraham Lincoln’s vice-presidential candidate. Several weeks after taking office, Lincoln was assassinated which thrust Johnson into office as the 17th President.

After the Civil War ended Johnson took a lenient approach to readmitting the southern states but, concerned with prewar leaders coming back into power in the South, Congress pushed through the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments and passed laws restricting the powers of the President. When Andrew Johnson violated one of those laws, the U.S. House issued eleven articles of impeachment. The Senate tried President Johnson on the impeachment charges but fell one vote short of the required two-thirds majority to convict him after three ballots.

Finishing his term in office, Johnson returned to Tennessee. He was re-elected to the Senate by voters in 1875, but he died in Carter’s Station, Tennessee just a few months later on July 31st, 1875. He was 76 years old.

Conclusion of Presidents from Tennessee

Three Tennessee residents served as President of the United States within a 40-year period. Andrew Jackson served from 1829 to 1837, James K. Polk served from 1845 to 1849, and Andrew Johnson served from 1865 to1869.

Each man left behind an imprint in history. Jackson was a military hero who served with an iron will as president, Polk was responsible for greatly expanding the size of the U.S territory and Johnson, who attempted to restore the southern states back into the union, was the first president to be impeached.