Alabama became the 22nd state to join the Union on December 14, 1819. The state’s first two senators, William R. King and John Walker, took office on that day. Alabama’s longest-serving senators include John Sparkman (1946–1979), Lister Hill (1938–1969), and Richard Shelby (1987–present). Among those who rose to leadership positions are William R. King and Benjamin Fitzpatrick, who served as the Senate’s president pro tempore, and Oscar Underwood, who became the Senate’s first designated Democratic leader in 1920. As vice president of the United States, William R. King was poised to serve as the Senate’s constitutional president or presiding officer. He died, however, before he could assume those duties.