United States Senators from Arkansas
The United States Congress, as created under the Constitution of the United States in 1787, consists of an upper and a lower house: the Senate and the House of Representatives. Until the ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913, senators were chosen by the legislatures of their respective states. Since that ratification, senators have been chosen by popular vote of each state. A senator must be at least thirty years of age, a citizen of the United States for nine years, and a resident of the state that they represent. A senator serves a non-term-limited term of six years. Unlike the House, in which the entire body is up for reelection every two years, only one-third of senators are voted on during each general election. Each of the fifty states elects two senators, making the current Senate consist of 100 members. In the twenty-first century, due to urbanization (especially in states that typically lean Democratic), the Senate as an institution structurally favors Republicans, given that rural, more conservative states are over-represented in this half of the U.S. Congress.
The first two senators chosen by the Arkansas General Assembly in 1836 were William S. Fulton and Ambrose Sevier. Since that time, the state has been represented by some of the most powerful and respected senators in U.S. history, including Joseph T. Robinson (who was also the vice presidential nominee in 1928), John L. McClellan, James William Fulbright, David Pryor, and Dale Bumpers. In 1932, Arkansas elected Hattie Caraway, the first woman elected to a full term in the Senate. Senator Caraway was followed by Blanche Lincoln in 1998. As a southern state in which the Democratic Party was the dominant political force before the modern civil rights movement, Arkansas has been represented, in total, by only seven Republicans in the U.S. Senate. Stephen Dorsey, Alexander McDonald, Powell Clayton, and Benjamin Rice served during Reconstruction. The next Republican senator, the first ever chosen by statewide election, was Tim Hutchinson in 1996. In 2020, the two Arkansas senators, John Boozman and Tom Cotton, were both Republicans. Given the increased preference for Republicans by white southerners, Arkansas, once a solidly Democratic state, will likely continue to send Republican senators to Washington DC in the near future.
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For additional information:
Historical Report of the Secretary of State. Little Rock: Arkansas Secretary of State’s Office, 2018.
Staff of the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas
Last Updated: 06/30/2021