North Carolina became the 12th state to ratify the Constitution.
Governor Samuel Johnston, born in Dundee, Scotland, but later of Edenton, was elected North Carolina's first United States senator by a joint ballot of the general assembly.
Benjamin Hawkins of Grenville County (now Warren County) was elected United States senator from North Carolina by a joint ballot of the general assembly.
Benjamin Hawkins took his seat in the Senate and Vice President John Adams administered the oath to support the Constitution. The statute regulating the taking of an oath, mandated by Article VI of the Constitution, was enacted on June 1, 1789.
Samuel Johnston took his seat in the Senate and Vice President John Adams administered the oath to support the Constitution. Johnston and Benjamin Hawkins then drew lots to determine their Senate class assignments. Johnston drew the Class 2 seat (with a term to expire in 1793) while Hawkins drew the Class 3 seat (with a term to expire in 1795).
Nathaniel Macon, of Monroe and later Warrenton, became chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, serving until 1819. Macon, who began his Senate service in 1815, became chairman of the committee again in December 1825 and in December 1827.
Bedford Brown of Browns Store became chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture (today's Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry), serving until 1836. Brown, a Democrat, resigned from the Senate in November 1840 because he could not obey the instructions of the Whig-controlled state legislature.
Asbury Dickins, originally of North Carolina but later of Philadelphia, took his oath as the newly elected secretary of the Senate and served until July 15, 1861. During his 25 years of service, Dickins professionalized the secretary's office and presided over the Senate on 20 occasions, a number matched by only one other secretary.
William Henry Haywood, Jr., of Raleigh became chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce (today's Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation), serving until 1846.
North Carolina seceded from the Union.
Congress passed the Omnibus Act to admit the states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida, to representation in Congress. The statute, which conditioned admission to representation in Congress with ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, was enacted over President Andrew Johnson's veto. North Carolina was admitted to representation in Congress on July 4, 1868.
Joseph Carter Abbott, born in Concord, New Hampshire, but later of Wilmington, North Carolina, was elected to fill the Class 2 vacancy in the term beginning March 4, 1865, and set to expire on March 3, 1871. John Pool of Elizabeth City was elected to fill the Class 3 vacancy in the term beginning March 4, 1867, and set to expire on March 3, 1873. Both men took their seats on July 17, 1868.
The Senate resolved the contested election case of defeated incumbent senator Joseph C. Abbott versus Zebulon Baird Vance of Charlotte and Matt Whitaker Ransom of Weldon. Vance had resigned on January 20, 1872, and the state legislature then elected Ransom in his place. The Senate denied Abbott's claim to the seat and voted the next day to seat Ransom.
Zebulon Baird Vance took his oath of office and was seated as the Class 3 senator from North Carolina. Reelected twice more, Vance and fellow North Carolinian Matt W. Ransom served together in the Senate for 15 years (1879–1894). Vance had an eye removed in 1889 after an inflammation. Following his death in Washington, D.C., funeral services were held in the Senate Chamber on April 16, 1894.
Matt W. Ransom became chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce (today's Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation), serving until 1881. Ransom chaired the committee again from 1893 to 1895.
William P. Canaday of Wilmington, North Carolina, was elected Senate sergeant at arms and served until June 30, 1890.
The Senate elected former Confederate army general and North Carolina representative (1881–1887) William Ruffin Cox as the secretary of the Senate. Cox served in that office until his retirement in 1900 and twice presided over the Senate.
Furnifold M. Simmons, of Raleigh, Trenton, and New Bern, began the first of his five Senate terms. At the end of his service in 1931, Simmons was the state's longest serving United States senator.
Lee Slater Overman of Salisbury entered the Senate. Reelected four times, Overman and fellow North Carolinian Furnifold M. Simmons represented the state in the next 14 Congresses (58th–71st). Following Overman's death in Washington, D.C., on December 12, 1930, his funeral service was held in the Senate Chamber.
The petition of George M. Pritchard of Asheville, contesting the November 1930 election of Josiah William Bailey of Raleigh, was dismissed by the Senate. Pritchard, son of former senator Jeter Connelly Pritchard (1895–1903), had entered his petition in March 1931 but Bailey, who took his oath of office on December 7, 1931, retained his seat and was reelected three more times.
Josiah W. Bailey became chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce (today's Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation), serving until 1946.
Senator Clyde Roark Hoey of Shelby, chairman of the Investigations Subcommittee of the Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Departments, opened public hearings into allegations of influence peddling to secure government contracts.
Samuel James Ervin, Jr., of Morganton, was appointed by the governor to fill the vacancy caused by death of Senator Clyde R. Hoey. Ervin took his seat on June 11, 1954, and subsequently won an uncontested election to fill the remainder of Hoey's term. Reelected three times, Ervin resigned his seat on December 31, 1974.
Nineteen southern senators, including North Carolina's Samuel J. Ervin Jr. and William Kerr Scott, signed "the Declaration of Constitutional Principles," known as the "Southern Manifesto" in opposition to the Supreme Court's 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. Members read the entire text of the manifesto into the Congressional Record.
The Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, chaired by B. Everett Jordan, opened its investigation of senior Senate staff member and Lyndon B. Johnson confidant Bobby Baker. The information revealed in the hearings encouraged the Senate to adopt a formal ethics code.
Samuel J. Ervin, Jr., became chairman of the Senate Committee on Government Operations (today's Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs), a position he held until his resignation on December 31, 1974.
Jesse Helms of Raleigh began the first of his five Senate terms. Helms, who previously had worked for North Carolina senators Willis Smith and Alton Lennon, served for 30 years, cast over 11,000 roll-call votes, and received the Golden Gavel Award in October 1973 for presiding over the Senate for 100 hours in a single session. Helms is the state's longest-serving popularly elected U.S. senator, having served for 30 years.
The Senate adopted a resolution creating the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, more commonly known as the Senate Watergate committee. Chaired by North Carolina senator Samuel J. Ervin, Jr., the committee investigated the Watergate burglary and, in July 1973, the committee's televised hearings revealed the existence of a secret White House taping system.
Jesse Helms became chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, serving until 1987.
Senator John Porter East of Springfield, Illinois, but later of Greenville, North Carolina, died of carbon monoxide poisoning in what was later ruled to be a suicide. East was elected to the Senate in 1981 and used a wheelchair as a result of contracting polio in the mid 1950s.
Elizabeth Hanford Dole of Salisbury, a former secretary of transportation (1983–1987) and secretary of labor (1989–1990), and North Carolina's first woman senator, received the Golden Gavel Award for presiding over the Senate for 100 hours in a single session.
Senator John Edwards of Raleigh was nominated for vice president of the United States on the Democratic Party ticket headed by another incumbent senator, John F. Kerry of Massachusetts. The ticket was defeated in the general election and Edwards's single term in the Senate ended on January 3, 2005.