Alaska gained official territorial status.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation making Alaska the 49th state in the Union.
Edward Lewis "Bob" Bartlett of Juneau and Ernest Gruening of Juneau presented their credentials, took the oath of office, and were seated as Alaska's first United States senators. They then drew lots to determine their class assignment. Bartlett drew Class 2, with a term to expire on January 3, 1961. Gruening drew Class 3, with a term to expire January 3, 1963.
The Senate and House quickly passed an emergency aid bill for the reconstruction and relief of Alaska following a massive Easter Sunday earthquake.
Senator Ernest Gruening cast one of only two votes in Congress against the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorized military action in Vietnam. The other vote was cast by Oregon senator Wayne Morse.
To publicize the still classified Pentagon Papers, which dealt with America's entry into the Vietnam War, Senator Maurice "Mike" Gravel of Anchorage read portions into the public record of his subcommittee and released them to the press.
The Senate and House passed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) that ceded 40 million acres to Alaskan natives in settlement of a myriad of Alaska Native aboriginal land claims.
Vice President Spiro Agnew cast the tie-breaking vote on an amendment offered by Senators Mike Gravel and Ted Stevens to remove all environmental and legal impediments to the pipeline carrying oil south from Alaska’s North Slope. The Senate then voted 77 to 20 to approve the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act.
By a vote of 63 to 25, a filibuster against the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act was defeated, clearing its way for enactment. The act created more than 100,000,000 acres of national parks, wildlife refuges, and wilderness areas, including what is known as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).
Frank Murkowski became chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, a position he held until 2001. Ted Stevens became chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, a position he held until September 12, 1995, when he became chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. He served in that post until 1997, and again from 2005 to 2007.
Elected governor, Frank Murkowski appointed his daughter, Lisa Murkowski, as his successor, and she became Alaska's first woman senator and the state’s first native-born senator. Two years later the Alaska state legislature passed a law requiring special elections to fill Senate vacancies.
Senator Ted Stevens became the longest-serving Republican senator, surpassing the record of Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. Stevens went on to serve in the Senate a total of 40 years and 10 days. His record as longest-serving Republican was surpassed in January 2017 by Orrin Hatch of Utah but Stevens remains Alaska's longest-serving senator. Chuck Grassley of Iowa became the longest-serving Republican senator in January 2023.
Former senator Mike Gravel ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Ted Stevens was convicted on seven counts of failing to report gifts he received from an oil company executive and others. Stevens was defeated for reelection on November 4. Six months later the conviction was dismissed on grounds of gross prosecutorial misconduct.
Incumbent senator Lisa Murkowski lost the Republican primary to Joe Miller. Murkowski then launched a write-in campaign for the general election and won, becoming only the second person to win a U.S. Senate seat as a write-in candidate. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina was the first, in 1954. Murkowski was also only the second incumbent senator to be defeated in the primary and win the general election. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut was the first in 2006.