William Mecklenburg Polk (1844–1918) was an American physician, son of Leonidas Polk, born at Ashwood, Maury Co., Tenn. He served in the Confederate army during the Civil War, advancing from the rank of cadet to captain. After graduating from the College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, he settled in the same city, serving as professor of therapeutics and clinical medicine at Bellevue Hospital Medical College (1875–1879), of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of the City of New York (1879–1898), and subsequently as dean and professor of gynæcology at Cornell University Medical College. He also became connected with many hospitals and dispensaries, was president of the New York Academy of Medicine in 1910–1914, and author of Leonidas Polk, Bishop and General (1893; new edition, two volumes, 1915) and of numerous contributions to medical journals, later reprinted.
From Year book of the New York Southern Society For the Year 1919-20
Born at Ashwood, Maury County, Tennessee, August 15th, 1844. Died at New York City, June 23, 1918.
His father was the Rt. Rev. Leonidas Polk (Episcopal Bishop of Louisiana and later Lieut-General, Confederate States Army and known throughout the South as the “fighting Bishop.”
William Mecklenburg Polk received his early education in Marion, Alabama, and at St. James College, Md., from which latter institution he went to the Virginia Military Institute and was graduated from there in 1861. He went from the Military Institute immediately after graduation into the Confederate Army and became Captain in the Adjutant Inspector General’s Department. He served continuously in the Confederate Army from the very beginning to the end of the Civil War. In May, 1863, he was appointed Assistant Chief of Artillery in Folk’s Corps, later was made Adjutant to the Regiment of Artillery of Stewart’s Corps and later still was made Captain on General Joseph E. Johnston’s staff. He was engaged during his varied service in twenty-one different battles and finished his soldier course in the general surrender at Meridian, Mississippi, in May, 1865.
At the close of the war he accepted the position of superintendent of the Briarfield (Alabama) Iron Works where he served until he began the formal study of medicine at Tulane University, Louisiana.
In 1868 he came to New York and entered the College of Physicians and Surgeons from which he was graduated the following year. He was, in his early professional career in New York, an intern of Bellevue Hospital and from that modest beginning rose to the professorship of therapeutics of Bellevue. Afterwards he was Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the Medical Department of University of New York, Dean and Professor of Gynecology Cornell University Medical School, Gynecologist to Bellevue Hospital, Consulting Gynecologist to St. Luke’s, St. Vincent’s and New York Lying-in Hospital and New York Infirmary for Women and Children. He was later President New York Academy of Medicine, American Gynecologycal Society of New York, New York Obstetrical Societv. Vice-President Continental Anglo-American Medical Society of Paris, Member International Society of Surgery, Royal Society of Medicine, England; Societe Beige de Gynecologic et Obstetrique, Bruxelles. He was from its foundation Dean of the Faculty of Cornell University Medical School and by identification with various other institutions of medical science both in this country and Europe, he made for himself an enviable reputation on two continents in the pursuit of his profession.
He was for many years a vestryman of Trinity Church and one of the trustees of the Trinity Corporation. He was made L. L. D. by Cornell University, University of the South (Sewanee, Tennessee), and the University of Georgia. He was at the time of his death a member of the Academy of Political Science, American Academy of Political and Social Science, American Museum of Natural History, Civil Service Reform Association, Society of the Cincinnati, Sons of the American Revolution and various other social organizations.
So runs the abbreviated encyclopedic record for the information of future generations when inquiring as to who was who.
For us the brilliant and useful career of our lamented associate has a far greater value. He was one of us in our own day, and contributed largely through his character and achievements to the preservation of the best Southern traditions and to the argument for their emulation.
When a man attains leadership in any field of honorable endeavor he wins distinction. When he thinks for himself with the independence of originality, and courageously defends the convictions of his conscience we say he is a strong personality. When he thrills to the call of his country and meets worthily every obligation of citizenship he proves himself a patriot. When he lives in loyalty of his attachments and responds with sympathy for all who suffer in mind, body or estate, he demonstrates the best characteristic of a true friend, and manifests the essential spirit of Christianity. When he dedicates his talents and devotes his time to the service of humanity he reaches the goal of true greatness and deserves to be honored of all men.
All these estimable qualities were hapily combined in the life and character of William Mecklenburg Polk— physician, philanthropist and patriot. Therefore, be it Resolved, that the New York Southern Society of which he was a devoted and an honored member and its worthy President for three terms, make this minute in tribute to his revered memory, and in fullness of feeling acknowledges its profound regret and sense of great loss because he is no longer with us.
From Notable Southern Families, Volume 1:
William Mecklenburg Polk, the last son of Bishop Leonidas Polk, was born in Ashwood, Maury County, Tennessee, August 15, 1844. He was given the name Mecklenburg in memory of the County where so many of his family lived and for the famous Declaration of Independence of Mecklenburg, with which so many members of his family played important parts. He married Ida A. Lyon, of Alabama. He served with gallantry in the Confederate Army. His son is Frank Lyon Polk, of the Department of State.