In a few years, Fort Polk will no longer be "Fort Polk."

Congress has agreed to change the names of the 10 military installations and two Department of Defense ships that bear the names of Confederate generals. The Fort Polk name change won't happen for more than a year, but the federal government is already ramping up the process to give the base a new name.

Who is the "Polk" in Fort Polk?

Confederate Bishop
(Photo by Spencer Arnold Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

It's easy to assume (like this author used to) that Fort Polk is named for 11th President James K. Polk. After all, President Polk greatly expanded the United States' western horizon by annexing Texas and the Oregon Territory and through the Mexican Cession following the Mexican-American War. However, he's not the namesake of the Vernon Parish installation.

Rather, Fort Polk is named for Right Reverend Leonidas Polk. The West Point graduate was the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana. He later helped the Episcopal Church in the Confederacy split off from the mainline U. S. Episcopal Church. A slave owner and planter originally from Tennessee, Polk resigned from his ecclesiastical duties to become an officer in the Confederate Army. Polk, who despite being a poor field commander was popular among his soldiers, rose to the rank of lieutenant general before he was killed in action during the Atlanta Campaign.

Leonidas Polk and President Polk are related. They were second cousins. Leonidas Polk's nephew Lucius was also a brigadier general in the Confederate Army.

What's next for Fort Polk?
A commission is currently accepting nomination for a new name.

Fort Polk spokesman Kavanaugh Breazeale says military officials are inviting members of the community to a Thursday event in which they can discuss the future of the base's name and suggestions for the new name.

Members of the public may also submit their nominations. To do so, go to Nominations will be accepted there until 4 p.m. Central Time on December 1. Final recommendations will be made to congress by October 1, 2022.

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