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.

 

NAME (LAST) NAME (FIRST) LIVED SERVED CONGRESS PARTY
Ashley Chester 1791–1848 1844–1848 28th–30th Democratic
Berry James H. 1841–1913 1885–1907 49th–59th Democratic
Boozman John 1950– 2011– 112th– Republican
Borland Solon 1811–1864 1848–1853 30th–32nd Democratic
Bumpers Dale 1925–2016 1975–1999 94th–105th Democratic
Caraway Hattie W. 1878–1950 1931–1945 72nd–78th Democratic
Caraway Thaddeus H. 1871–1931 1921–1931 67th–72nd Democratic
Clarke James P. 1854–1916 1903–1916 58th–64th Democratic
Clayton Powell 1833–1914 1871–1877 42nd–44th Republican
Cotton Tom 1977– 2015– 114th– Republican
Davis Jeff 1862–1913 1907–1913 60th–61st Democratic
Dorsey Stephen W. 1842–1916 1873–1879 43rd–45th Republican
Fulbright J. William 1905–1995 1945–1974 79th–93rd Democratic
Fulton William S. 1795–1844 1836–1844 24th–28th Democratic
Garland Augustus H. 1832–1899 1877–1885 45th–49th Democratic
Heiskell John N. 1872–1972 1913 62nd Democratic
Hodges Kaneaster Jr. 1938– 1977–1979 95th Democratic
Hutchinson Tim 1949– 1997–2003 105th–107th Republican
Johnson Robert W. 1814–1879 1853–1861 33rd–36th Democratic
Jones James K. 1839–1908 1885–1903 49th–57th Democratic
Kavanaugh William M. 1866–1915 1913 62nd Democratic
Kirby William F. 1867–1934 1916–1921 64th–66th Democratic
Lincoln Blanche 1960– 1999–2011 106th–111th Democratic
McClellan John L. 1896–1977 1943–1977 78th–94th Democratic
McDonald Alexander 1832–1903 1868–1871 40th–41st Republican
Miller John E. 1888–1981 1937–1941 75th–77th Democratic
Mitchel Charles B. 1815–1864 1861 37th Democratic
Pryor David H. 1934– 1979–1997 96th–104th Democratic
Pryor Mark 1963– 2003–2015 108th–113th Democratic
Rice Benjamin F. 1828–1905 1868–1873 40th–42nd Republican
Robinson Joseph T. 1872–1937 1913–1937 63rd–75th Democratic
Sebastian William K. 1812–1865 1848–1861 30th–37th Democratic
Sevier Ambrose H. 1801–1848 1836–1848 24th–30th Democratic
Spencer Lloyd 1893–1981 1941–1943 77th Democratic
Walker James D. 1830–1906 1879–1885 46th–48th Democratic

 

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