Weird History

The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History 

Mel Judson
Originally by
Updated June 14, 2019 235.7k votes 16k voters 260k views 438 items

List Rules American leaders only. Note: "Most important" or "most influential" does not equal "best."

List of the most important leaders in U.S. history. Love 'em or hate 'em, these leaders shaped American history from its founding through today. Men and women who have truly defined America through their work and leadership, even if it did not mean serving political office, are ranked here on this master list of leaders. Pioneers who changed the landscape, from the Civil Rights Movement, to Women's Suffrage, to the atom bomb, appear on this list of American leaders who changed the world.

The most important American presidents are ranked here, like Harry S. Truman and George Washington to name a few, along with First Ladies like Eleanor Roosevelt. Industry leaders like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller cannot be overlooked, nor can leaders who were not in the U.S. government itself, such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Susan B. Anthony.

Leadership takes many forms throughout American history, and famous American leaders pervade all of history, but this list gives props to those who were the most influential. Vote up the most important U.S. leaders below, or if the United States is too small for you, make sure to peruse this list of The Most Important Leaders in World History.
list ordered by
1
George Washington is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 67 (1732-1799)

Birthplace: Virginia, United States of America

George Washington was the first President of the United States, the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He presided over the ...more
2
Benjamin Franklin is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 84 (1706-1790)

Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America

Benjamin Franklin (January 17, 1706 [O.S. January 6, 1705] – April 17, 1790) was an American polymath and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Franklin was a leading author, ...more
3
Thomas Jefferson is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 83 (1743-1826)

Birthplace: Shadwell, Virginia, United States of America

Thomas Jefferson was an American Founding Father, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, and the third President of the United States. He was a spokesman for democracy, and ...more
4
Abraham Lincoln is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 56 (1809-1865)

Birthplace: Hodgenville, Kentucky, United States of America

Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) was an American statesman and lawyer who served as the 16th president of the United States from 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. ...more
5
Theodore Roosevelt is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 61 (1858-1919)

Birthplace: Manhattan, New York City, New York, United States of America

Theodore Roosevelt Jr. ( ROH-zə-velt; October 27, 1858 – January 6, 1919) was an American statesman, politician, conservationist, naturalist, and writer who served as the 26th president of the ...more
6
Alexander Hamilton is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 47 (1757-1804)

Birthplace: Charlestown, Saint Kitts and Nevis

Alexander Hamilton (January 11, 1755 or 1757 – July 12, 1804) was an American statesman, politician, legal scholar, military commander, lawyer, banker and economist. He was one of the Founding ...more
7
John Adams is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 91 (1735-1826)

Birthplace: Braintree, Massachusetts, United States of America

John Adams Jr. (October 30, 1735 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, attorney, diplomat, writer, and Founding Father who served as the second president of the United States from 1797 to ...more
8
Franklin D. Roosevelt is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 63 (1882-1945)

Birthplace: Hyde Park, New York, United States of America

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (, ; January 30, 1882 – April 12, 1945), often referred to by initials FDR, was an American statesman and political leader who served as the 32nd president of the ...more
9
Martin Luther King, Jr. ... is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 39 (1929-1968)

Birthplace: Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America

Martin Luther King Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was an American Baptist minister and activist who became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the civil rights movement from 1955 ...more
10
Dwight D. Eisenhower is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 79 (1890-1969)

Birthplace: Denison, Texas, United States of America

Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower ( EYE-zən-how-ər; October 14, 1890 – March 28, 1969) was an American army general and statesman who served as the 34th president of the United States from ...more
11
George S. Patton is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
sev674475 added Dec. at 60 (1885-1945)

Birthplace: San Gabriel, California

 (November 11, 1885 – December 21, 1945) George Smith Patton Jr. (November 11, 1885 – December 21, 1945) was a General of the United States Army who commanded the U.S. Seventh Army in the Mediterranean theater of World War II, and the ...more
12
James Madison is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 85 (1751-1836)

Birthplace: Port Conway, Virginia, United States of America

James Madison Jr. (March 16, 1751 – June 28, 1836) was an American statesman, lawyer, diplomat, philosopher, and Founding Father who served as the fourth president of the United States from 1809 ...more
13
John Hancock is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 56 (1737-1793)
John Hancock (January 23, 1737 [O.S. January 12, 1736] – October 8, 1793) was an American merchant, statesman, and prominent Patriot of the American Revolution. He served as president of the ...more
14
Samuel Adams is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 81 (1722-1803)

Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America

Samuel Adams (September 27 [O.S. September 16] 1722 – October 2, 1803) was an American statesman, political philosopher, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He was a politician ...more
15
Ronald Reagan is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
AmandaHall added Dec. at 93 (1911-2004)

Birthplace: Tampico, Illinois, United States of America

Ronald Wilson Reagan (; February 6, 1911 – June 5, 2004) was an American politician who served as the 40th president of the United States from 1981 to 1989. Prior to his presidency, he was a ...more
16
Wright brothers is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History

Birthplace: Dayton

The Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, were two American brothers, inventors, and aviation pioneers who are credited with inventing and building the world's first successful airplane and ...more
17
John F. Kennedy is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 46 (1917-1963)

Birthplace: Brookline, Massachusetts, United States of America

John Fitzgerald Kennedy (May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963), often referred to by initials JFK and Jack, was an American politician who served as the 35th president of the United States from ...more
18
Alexander Graham Bell is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 75 (1847-1922)

Birthplace: Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Alexander Graham Bell ('Graham' pronounced ) (March 3, 1847 – August 2, 1922) was a Scottish-born American inventor, scientist, and engineer who is credited with inventing and patenting the ...more
19
Thomas Edison is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 84 (1847-1931)

Birthplace: Milan, Ohio, United States of America

Thomas Alva Edison (February 11, 1847 – October 18, 1931) was an American inventor and businessman who has been described as America's greatest inventor. He developed many devices in fields such ...more
20
Ulysses S. Grant is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 63 (1822-1885)

Birthplace: Point Pleasant, Ohio, United States of America

Ulysses S. Grant (born Hiram Ulysses Grant; April 27, 1822 – July 23, 1885) was an American soldier, politician, and international statesman who served as the 18th president of the United States ...more
21
Harry S. Truman is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 88 (1884-1972)

Birthplace: Lamar, Missouri, United States of America

Harry S. Truman (May 8, 1884 – December 26, 1972) was the 33rd president of the United States from 1945 to 1953, succeeding upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt after serving as vice ...more
22
James Monroe is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 73 (1758-1831)

Birthplace: Monroe Hall, Virginia, United States of America

James Monroe (; April 28, 1758 – July 4, 1831) was an American statesman, lawyer, diplomat and Founding Father who served as the fifth president of the United States from 1817 to 1825. A member ...more
23
Daniel Boone is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
null98Jeff added Dec. at 86 (1734-1820)

Birthplace: Daniel Boone Homestead, Birdsboro, Pennsylvania

Daniel Boone (November 2, 1734 [O.S. October 22] – September 26, 1820) was an American pioneer, explorer, woodsman, and frontiersman whose frontier exploits made him one of the first folk heroes ...more
24
Jonas Salk is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 81 (1914-1995)

Birthplace: New York City, New York

Jonas Edward Salk (; October 28, 1914 – June 23, 1995) was an American medical researcher and virologist. He discovered and developed one of the first successful polio vaccines. Born in New York ...more
25
Meriwether Lewis is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Meriwether Lewis Dec. at 35 (1774-1809)

Birthplace: Ivy, Virginia, United States of America

Meriwether Lewis (August 18, 1774 – October 11, 1809) was an American explorer, soldier, politician, and public administrator, best known for his role as the leader of the Lewis and Clark ...more