Leonidas L. Polk

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Leonidas L. Polk
1st North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture
In office
Preceded byNone
Succeeded byMontford McGehee
Member of the North Carolina House of Representatives
In office
In office
Delegate to the North Carolina Constitutional Convention
In office
Personal details
Leonidas Lafayette Polk

(1837-04-24)April 24, 1837
Anson County, North Carolina
DiedJune 11, 1892(1892-06-11) (aged 55)
Washington, D.C.
Resting placeOakwood Cemetery, Raleigh, North Carolina
Political partyPopulist Party
SpouseSarah Pamela Gaddy Polk
Alma materDavidson College
Military service
Allegiance Confederate States
Branch/service Confederate States Army
Rank 2nd Lieutenant
UnitNorth Carolina 43rd North Carolina Infantry[1]
Battles/warsAmerican Civil War

Leonidas Lafayette Polk (April 24, 1837 – June 11, 1892), or L.L. Polk, was an American farmer, journalist and political figure. He was a leader of the Farmers' Alliance and helped found the Populist Party.[2]

Life and career[edit]

Polk was born in Anson County, North Carolina. He fought in the American Civil War for the Confederate States of America, and was wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg.

Returning to North Carolina after the war, Polk founded the town of Polkton, incorporated in 1875, where he started a weekly newspaper called The Ansonian. Through it he advocated for farmers and for the Grange movement. Polk, a distant relative of President James K. Polk, became active in state politics, serving in the North Carolina House of Representatives and as a delegate to the state constitutional convention in 1865–66. In 1877, he was appointed the first North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture and served until 1880. An agricultural collection he established as Commissioner was the basis for what became the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

Polk returned to journalism by founding the Progressive Farmer in 1886 in Winston. The magazine is still published to this day.[3] At first, the paper's primary aim was to teach new agricultural methods, but soon it also focused on politics.

Meanwhile, Polk was also active in the Baptist church, once serving as president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Polk was instrumental in establishing the North Carolina Agricultural and Mechanical College and Baptist Female University.

In the late 1880s, Polk rose to nationwide prominence through his leadership of the state and national Farmers' Alliance, which had begun in Texas. He became its national vice president in 1887 and its president in 1889. These words, spoken in 1887, were typical of Polk's rhetoric: "Our farmers buy everything to raise cotton, and raise cotton to buy everything, and, after going through this treadmill business for years, they lie down and die and leave their families penniless."

The Alliance's mixed record under traditional two-party politics paved the way for the Populist Party, or People's Party. Polk presided over the meeting in February 1892 that formally created the party. The Populists likely would have nominated Polk for president in 1892 (see 1892 U.S. presidential election), but he died unexpectedly from a hemorrhaging bladder in Washington, D.C., on June 11, 1892.


Polk was one of the first inductees into the North Carolina Agricultural Hall of Fame.

His home in Raleigh is today owned by the state of North Carolina. It was moved on Nov. 12, 2000, to its new location on Blount Street in Raleigh. The Leonidas LaFayette Polk House Foundation plans to use part of the house for the Polk Museum. The rest will be used for state offices. [4] The Leonidas L. Polk House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.[5]

Polk Hall at North Carolina State University was named in his honor.[6]



  1. ^ "Soldier Details". National Park Service. Retrieved 23 April 2018.
  2. ^ Noblin, Stuart (1994). "Leonidas Lafayette Polk". NCPedia. Retrieved September 29, 2019.
  3. ^ Progressive Farmer online
  4. ^ Case Studies: North Carolina Sustainability
  5. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  6. ^ "Polk Hall". projects.ncsu.edu. Retrieved 2019-12-17.


Further reading

  • Noblin, Stuart. "Leonidas Lafayette Polk and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture: Part I: The Genesis of the Department." North Carolina Historical Review 20.2 (1943): 103-121. online
    • Noblin, Stuart. "Leonidas Lafayette Polk and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture: Part Ii: Polk as Commissioner of Agriculture." North Carolina Historical Review 20.3 (1943): 197-218.
  • Noblin, Stuart. Leonidas LaFayette Polk, Agrarian Crusader (1949)

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
1st North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture
Succeeded by