With the Louisiana Purchase, the United States acquired nearly 800,000 square miles of land, extending from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains, including the area forming the present state of Arkansas.
The Senate approved a bill setting aside land in the Louisiana Territory between the St. Francis and Arkansas Rivers (present day Arkansas and Missouri) for military land bounties. These land grants were to be given in 160-acre parcels to soldiers and non-commissioned officers who served five years in the army, thereby encouraging settlement of the sparsely-populated region.
The Senate passed "An act establishing a separate territorial government in the southern part of the territory of Missouri." The bill became law the following day and created the Territory of Arkansas.
William S. Fulton of Little Rock and Ambrose H. Sevier of Lake Port presented their credentials and took their oaths of office as Arkansas' first two United States senators. The two senators then drew lots to determine class assignments. Senator Sevier drew Class 1, for a term to expire on March 3, 1837. Senator Fulton drew Class 3, for a term to expire on March 3, 1841.
The Senate voted to seat Ambrose H. Sevier following controversy over the timing of his presentation of credentials. On January 17, 1837, Arkansas governor James S. Conway appointed Sevier (whose first term was set to expire on March 3, 1837) for the term beginning March 4, 1837, to avoid a vacancy in the seat during a recess of the state legislature. When Sevier's credentials for the new term, beginning March 4, 1837, were presented on February 27, questions arose about the ability to present credentials in one Congress for service in the next. Following an investigation, the Senate voted 26 to 19 to seat Sevier.
The U.S. signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo following the U.S.-Mexican War. Among the U.S. delegation to negotiate the treaty was Senator Ambrose H. Sevier. With the signing of the treaty, Mexico ceded to the United States the territory that now makes up the southwestern states. On March 15, Sevier resigned from the Senate to serve as minister to Mexico.
Robert W. Johnson of Pine Bluff briefly became chairman of the Senate Committee on Military Affairs (today's Armed Services Committee). The chairman of the committee, Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, and its next ranking member, Senator Benjamin Fitzpatrick of Alabama, had both withdrawn from the Senate on January 21 after their states had seceded from the Union.
After Arkansas was allowed to resume representation in the U.S. Congress following the Civil War, Alexander McDonald and Benjamin F. Rice, both of Little Rock, took the oath of office as U.S. senators.
The Senate passed a resolution of condemnation against Attorney General (and former senator) Augustus H. Garland following his refusal to provide information to a Senate committee: "Resolved, That the Senate hereby expresses its condemnation of the refusal of the Attorney-General, under whatever influence, to send to the Senate copies of papers called for by its resolution of the 25th of January . . . as in violation of his official duty and subversive of the fundamental principles of the Government and of a good administration thereof" (Cong. Record, March 26, 1886, p. 2810).
James P. Clarke became chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce (today's Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation), a position he held from 1913 to 1916.
The Seventeenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution went into effect allowing the election of U.S. senators by popular vote. James P. Clarke of Little Rock, a member since 1903, became Arkansas' first directly elected senator, winning reelection in 1914.
Congress accepted a statue of Uriah M. Rose, one of Arkansas' two contributions to the National Statuary Hall Collection. Born in Bradfordsville, Arkansas, in 1834, Rose enjoyed a successful career in law, establishing the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock in 1865. He served as president of the Arkansas Bar Association from 1899 to 1900, and as president of the American Bar Association from 1901 to 1902. The seven-foot-six-inch marble statue is the work of sculptor Frederic W. Ruckstuhl.
Congress accepted a statue of James P. Clarke, the second of Arkansas' two contributions to the National Statuary Hall Collection. Born in Mississippi in 1854, Clarke studied law at the University of Virginia and then established a law practice in Helena, Arkansas. He subsequently served in the Arkansas state legislature, as governor of Arkansas, and as U.S. senator from 1903 to 1916. The six-foot-ten-inch marble statue is the work of artist Pompeo Coppini.
The Senate Democratic Conference elected Joseph T. Robinson of Little Rock as floor leader, a position he held until his death on July 14, 1937. Robinson served as majority leader from 1933 to 1937. Simultaneously, he served as chairman of the Democratic Conference.
Hattie W. Caraway of Jonesboro was appointed by Arkansas governor Harvey Parnell to fill the seat left vacant by the death of her husband, Senator Thaddeus H. Caraway. Subsequently elected in a special election on January 12, 1932, she became the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate. She was elected to a full term in 1932 and reelected in 1938, and served until January 3, 1945.
Long-shot Senate candidate Hattie Caraway began an extraordinary nine-day campaign tour across Arkansas with popular senator Huey P. Long of neighboring Louisiana. The highly publicized "Hattie and Huey" tour resulted in a landslide victory for Caraway.
Charles Watkins of Arkansas became the Senate's first official parliamentarian.
The Senate acquired a portrait of Senator Joseph T. Robinson, who died in office on July 14, 1937. The portrait was painted by Nicholas Brewer in 1934, shortly after the senator's selection as majority leader. Following Robinson's death in 1937, Senator Hattie Caraway introduced a resolution to authorize acceptance of a gift of the Robinson portrait. The painting, which had been hanging in the office of the secretary of the Senate, was presented to the Senate by Robinson's widow and friends several months later.
Without ceremony, an oil portrait of Illinois senator J. Hamilton Lewis by Arkansas native Louis Betts was hung in the U.S. Capitol. The exact date that Betts painted the portrait is unknown, but it was likely copied from a 1940 photograph of Lewis.
On October 19, 1943, for the first time, a woman formally took up the gavel as the Senate's presiding officer. In the absence of the vice president and the president pro tempore, the secretary of the Senate read a letter assigning the duties of the chair to Arkansas Democrat Hattie W. Caraway.
The Senate elected Leslie Biffle, who grew up in Piggott, Arkansas, as secretary of the Senate, a position he held from February 8, 1945, to January 4, 1947, and again from January 3, 1949, to January 3, 1953.
John L. McClellan of Camden became chairman of the Senate Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Departments. On March 3, 1952, a senate resolution changed the committee name to the Committee on Government Operations, the forerunner of the current Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Senator McClellan held the chairman position from 1952 to 1953, and again from 1955 to 1972.
J. William Fulbright became chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, a position he held until 1974. As chair of this influential committee, Fulbright conducted "educational hearings" on America's role in the Vietnam War in the late 1960s and early 1970s, criticizing the presidential administrations of Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon and influencing public opinion.
John L. McClellan became Arkansas's longest-serving senator, surpassing the record of 24 years, 4 months, and 1 day set by Joseph T. Robinson in 1937. McClellan went on to serve for 34 years and 11 months.
John L. McClellan became chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, a position he held from 1971 to 1979. McCellan replaced the previous chairman, Louisiana senator Allen J. Ellender, who had died in office the previous week.
Future senator Blanche L. Lincoln of Helena became staff assistant to Representative William V. Alexander Jr. of Arkansas, a position she held for two years. Lincoln was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1992 and served two terms. She was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1998.
Former senator J. William Fulbright received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Established by President Harry Truman in 1945, the Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian award given in the United States. In awarding the medal to Fulbright, President Bill Clinton recognized the former senator's long legislative career and his role in establishing the Fulbright academic exchange program " . . . to enable the Government of the United States to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States, and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchange."