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States in the Senate | Colorado Timeline

Introduction   |   Senators   |   Timeline


Map of Colorado Territory, 1861

February 28

Colorado Territory was created within the state’s present borders.


March 3

Congress passed legislation enabling Coloradans to hold a convention to draft a state constitution and submit it for approval.


Map of Colorado, 1876

August 1

In compliance with the enabling act, President Ulysses S. Grant by proclamation admitted Colorado to the Union as the 38th state. Statehood occurred on the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence thereby providing the nickname “The Centennial State.”


Jerome Bunty Chaffee (R-CO)

December 4

Jerome Bunty Chaffee of Denver and Henry Moore Teller of Central City presented their credentials and took the oath of office as Colorado’s first senators. The senators then drew lots to determine their class assignments. Teller drew Class 1, with a term to expire on March 3, 1877. Chaffee drew Class 2, with a term to expire March 3, 1879. Chaffee and Teller were cousins, but also bitter political rivals.


Henry M. Teller

April 6

The Senate confirmed the nomination of Henry Moore Teller as secretary of the interior under President Chester A. Arthur. Teller resigned his Senate seat on April 17, 1876, and served as interior secretary until March 3, 1885. On March 4, 1885, he returned to the Senate and served until 1909. He is Colorado's longest-serving senator, with a total of 29 years, 5 months, and 3 days.


Edward Oliver Wolcott (R-CO)


Colorado senators Henry M. Teller, and Edward Oliver Wolcott of Denver, working with other western senators, secured passage of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. This statute, designed to increase the market value of silver, established a plan for the U.S. Treasury to purchase 4.5 million ounces of silver bullion each month at market rates and to issue legal tender Treasury notes, at the option of that department, redeemable in gold or silver.


Henry Moore Teller (R-CO)

September 22

Senator Henry M. Teller expressed his opinion about the Senate's role in protecting minorities against precipitous actions of a majority. “It is useless for anyone to say that the majority are capable of conducting things properly and will always conduct things properly. There is nothing in the world more wicked and cruel than the majority; and governments are instituted…to protect minorities against majorities. Majorities protect themselves.”


Cover of <i>Puck Magazine</i> depicting repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act

October 30

Senators Teller and Wolcott led a 46-day filibuster against a bill to repeal the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. Despite their efforts, Congress repealed the statute. This destroyed the market for silver and led to the closing of mines, banks, and businesses.


November 2

Women were allowed to vote in the national election for the first time in Colorado after it became the second state to pass woman suffrage.


Henry Teller

April 19-20

The Senate passed a joint resolution that repudiated Spain’s sovereignty over Cuba and called for U.S. intervention. It included the Teller Amendment, sponsored by Henry Teller, that recognized Cuba's independence and ensured the U.S. would not establish control of the island. On April 24, Spain declared war on the U.S.


Charles Spaulding Thomas (D-CO)

January 11

Following the death of Charles J. Hughes Jr. of Denver, the state legislature adjourned without electing a replacement. The seat remained vacant for two years until the legislature reconvened in January 1913 and elected Charles Spaulding Thomas of Denver for the two years remaining in Hughes' term.


Seventeenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

November 3

Charles Thomas became Colorado's first directly elected senator following the 1913 ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution


Lawrence Cowle Phipps (R-CO)

December 3

Lawrence Cowle Phipps of Denver became chairman of the Senate Committee on Education and Labor (today's Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions), serving until 1926.


Eugene Donald Millikin (R-CO)

December 30

Senate Republicans elected Eugene Donald Millikin of Denver as Conference chairman, a position he held until 1956.


January 6

Eugene Millikin became chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance during the 80th Congress (1947-1949). He chaired that panel again from 1953 to 1955. 


Edwin Carl Johnson (D-CO)

January 10

Edwin Carl Johnson of Craig became chairman of the Senate Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce (today's Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation). He held that post for four years.


Statue of Florence R. Sabin, National Statuary Hall Collection

February 26

A statue of Florence R. Sabin of Denver, a pioneer in science and public health, was unveiled at the Capitol as Colorado's first contribution to the National Statuary Hall Collection.


Photo Byron R. White

April 11

The Senate confirmed the nomination of Byron R. White of Wellington as an associate justice on the United States Supreme Court.


Gordon Allott (R-CO)

January 3

Senate Republicans elected Gordon Allott of Lamar chairman of their Policy Committee. He served through 1972. 


William Armstrong (R-CO)

November 28

Senate Republicans elected William Armstrong of Littleton chairman of their Policy Committee. He served through 1990.


Ben Nighthorse Campbell (D/R-CO)

January 3

Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Ignacio, a jewelry designer and rancher, became the third person of Native American ancestry to become a U.S. senator.


March 3

Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell  changed parties, leaving the Democratic Party to join the Republicans. He maintained his seniority when he switched.


January 9

Ben Nighthorse Campbell became chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, serving until 2001, and again from 2003 to 2005.


Statue of John L. Swigert, National Statuary Hall Collection

May 22

Congress accepted a statue of Apollo 13 astronaut and Denver native John L. Swigert, Jr., by George and Mark Lundeen, as Colorado's second contribution to the National Statuary Hall Collection.


Ken Salazar (D-CO)

January 3

In taking the oath of office, Ken Salazar of Denver and Mel Martinez of Florida became the fourth and fifth Hispanic-Americans to serve in the Senate.


January 20

The Senate confirmed the nomination of Ken Salazar as the 50th U.S. secretary of the interior. Before coming to the Senate, Salazar had served as Colorado's attorney general and as director of natural resources.


Mark Udall (D-CO)

January 20

Mark Udall of Eldorado Springs, who took his Senate oath on January 3, became Colorado's senior senator. He had served only 17 days as the state's junior senator, until the resignation of Ken Salazar elevated him to senior status.


Golden Gavel

July 13

Cory Gardner of Yuma received the Golden Gavel Award for presiding over the Senate for 100 hours in a Congress.


Cory Gardner (R-CO)

November 16

Senate Republicans elected Cory Gardner as their National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman for the 115th Congress.