Applause rang out in the Senate chamber on Thursday as Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, became the longest-serving Republican senator in U.S. history.

The actual anniversary is on Friday, but the Senate will not be in session so the celebration took place a day early.

Acknowledging the honor, Stevens said he is "surrounded by friends here on both sides of the aisle." He received a standing ovation before walking over to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to shake hands and nod his head to his colleagues.

A decorated World War Army pilot, Stevens has served in the Senate chamber for nearly four decades.

Legendary not only for his ability to get money for his state (some call this "pork"), Stevens also is well-known for his Incredible Hulk ties. On days when he was Appropriations Committee chairman managing spending bills on the Senate floor, Stevens would wear a tie bearing the scrapping green fighter. Members and reporters would know he was pumped up and ready for a fight.

Stevens surpassed the late Sen. Strom Thurmond in winning the title of longest-serving GOP senator. The longest serving senator in history is West Virginia Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd.

FOX News' Trish Turner contributed to this report.