Weird History The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History  

Mel Judson
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173.2k votes 11.2k voters 217.9k 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
3,703 587
George Washington is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 67 (1732-1799) 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
3,500 1,046
Abraham Lincoln is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 56 (1809-1865) Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his life was taken in April 1865. Lincoln led the United States and its greatest moral, constitutional ...more

3
2,893 634
Thomas Jefferson is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 83 (1743-1826) 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
1,922 793
James Madison is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 85 (1751-1836) James Madison, Jr. was an American statesman, political theorist, and the fourth President of the United States. He is hailed as the "Father of the Constitution" for being instrumental ...more

5
1,611 911
Thomas Paine is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 72 (1737-1809) Thomas Paine was an English-American political activist, philosopher, political theorist and revolutionary. One of the Founding Fathers of the United States, he authored the two most influential ...more

6
2,326 4,862
Donald Trump is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Ashutosh Kumar added age 71 Donald John Trump (born June 14, 1946) is the 45th and current President of the United States, in office since January 20, 2017. Before entering politics, he was a businessman and television ...more

7
1,745 1,640
Eleanor Roosevelt is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 78 (1884-1962) Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was an American politician, diplomat, and activist. She was the longest-serving First Lady of the United States, holding the post from March 1933 to April 1945 during her ...more

8
3,216 334
Benjamin Franklin is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 84 (1706-1790) Benjamin Franklin FRS was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A renowned polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, ...more

9
1,312 803
Patrick Henry is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
null98Jeff added Dec. at 63 (1736-1799) Patrick Henry was an American attorney, planter and politician who became known as an orator during the movement for independence in Virginia in the 1770s. A Founding Father, he served as the ...more

10
3,057 1,137
Martin Luther King, Jr. is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 39 (1929-1968) Martin Luther King Jr. (born Michael King Jr., January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was an American Baptist minister and activist who was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for ...more

11
2,297 1,223
John F. Kennedy is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 46 (1917-1963) John Fitzgerald Kennedy (May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963), also referred to as John F. Kennedy, JFK, John Kennedy or Jack Kennedy, was the 35th President of the United States. He served from ...more

12
2,000 523
John Adams is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 91 (1735-1826) John Adams was the second president of the United States, having earlier served as the first vice president of the United States. An American Founding Father, Adams was a statesman, diplomat, ...more

13
2,520 803
Franklin D. Roosevelt is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 63 (1882-1945) Franklin Delano Roosevelt (January 30, 1882 – April 12, 1945), often referred to by his initials FDR, was an American statesman and political leader who served as the 32nd President of the ...more

14
1,651 654
John Hancock is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 56 (1737-1793) John Hancock was a merchant, statesman, and prominent Patriot of the American Revolution. He served as president of the Second Continental Congress and was the first and third Governor of the ...more

15
2,329 423
Theodore Roosevelt is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 61 (1858-1919) Theodore "T.R." Roosevelt Jr. was an American politician, author, naturalist, soldier, explorer, and historian who served as the 26th President of the United States. He was a leader of ...more

16
1,941 507
Alexander Hamilton is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 47 (1757-1804) Alexander Hamilton was a founding father of the United States, chief staff aide to General George Washington, one of the most influential interpreters and promoters of the U.S. Constitution, the ...more

17
2,263 1,050
Ronald Reagan is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
AmandaHall added Dec. at 93 (1911-2004) Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States. Before his presidency he served as the 33rd Governor of California and was also an actor from 1937–1964. Born and raised in ...more

18
1,839 557
Dwight D. Eisenhower is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 79 (1890-1969) Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army during WWII and served as Supreme ...more

19
1,153 564
James Monroe is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 73 (1758-1831) James Monroe was the fifth President of the United States. Monroe was the last president who was a Founding Father of the United States and the last president from the Virginia dynasty and the ...more

20
1,257 795
Henry Ford is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 84 (1863-1947) Henry Ford was an American industrialist, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, and sponsor of the development of the assembly line technique of mass production. Although Ford did not invent ...more

21
1,431 650
Ulysses S. Grant is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 63 (1822-1885) Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th President of the United States. As Commanding General, Grant worked closely with President Abraham Lincoln to lead the Union Army to victory over the Confederacy. ...more

22
1,300 860
Andrew Jackson is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 78 (1767-1845) Andrew Jackson was the seventh President of the United States. He was born near the end of the colonial era, somewhere near the then-unmarked border between North and South Carolina, into a ...more

23
1,393 610
Thomas Edison is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 84 (1847-1931) Thomas Alva Edison was an American inventor and businessman. He developed many devices that greatly influenced life around the world, including the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and a ...more

24
1,366 749
Robert E. Lee is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 63 (1807-1870) Robert Edward Lee was an American soldier best known for commanding the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War from 1862 until his surrender in 1865. The son of ...more

25
1,486 428
George S. Patton is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
sev674475 added Dec. at 60 (1885-1945)  (November 11, 1885 – December 21, 1945) George Smith Patton, Jr. was a United States Army general, who commanded the Seventh United States Army in the Mediterranean and European Theaters of WWII, but is best known for his leadership ...more

26
946 1,234
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 65 (1929-1994) Jacqueline Lee "Jackie" Kennedy Onassis was the wife of the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, and First Lady of the United States during his presidency. Five years ...more

27
1,166 608
Douglas MacArthur is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
AmandaHall added Dec. at 84 (1880-1964) Douglas MacArthur was an American five-star general and Field Marshal of the Philippine Army. He was Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s and played a prominent role in the ...more

28
1,299 411
Wright brothers is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
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

29
1,150 466
Harry S. Truman is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 88 (1884-1972) Harry S. Truman was an American statesman who served as the 33rd President of the United States, taking the office upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt. A WWI veteran. He is known for ...more

30
1,106 391
Samuel Adams is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 81 (1722-1803) Samuel Adams was an American statesman, political philosopher, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. As a politician in colonial Massachusetts, Adams was a leader of the movement ...more

31
925 655
William Tecumseh Sherman is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
jschro1861 added Dec. at 71 (1820-1891) William Tecumseh Sherman was an American soldier, businessman, educator and author. He served as a General in the Union Army during the American Civil War, for which he received recognition for ...more

32
1,121 388
Alexander Graham Bell is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 75 (1847-1922) Alexander Graham Bell was an eminent Scottish-born scientist, inventor, engineer and innovator who is credited with inventing the first practical telephone. Bell's father, grandfather, and ...more

33
993 344
Jonas Salk is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 81 (1914-1995) Jonas Edward Salk was an American medical researcher and virologist. He discovered and developed the first successful inactivated polio vaccine. Born in New York City, he attended New York ...more

34
874 436
John Marshall is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 80 (1755-1835) John Marshall was the fourth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. His court opinions helped lay the basis for United States constitutional law and made the Supreme Court of ...more

35
930 452
Paul Revere is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 83 (1735-1818) Paul Revere was an American silversmith, engraver, early industrialist, and a patriot in the American Revolution. He is most famous for alerting the Colonial militia to the approach of British ...more

36
1,079 453
Sitting Bull is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Valdave added Dec. at 59 (1831-1890) Sitting Bull was a Hunkpapa Lakota holy man who led his people as a tribal chief during years of resistance to United States government policies. He was killed by Indian agency police on the ...more

37
732 304
Davy Crockett is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
null98Jeff added Dec. at 50 (1786-1836) David "Davy" Stern Crockett was a 19th-century American folk hero, frontiersman, soldier, and politician. He is commonly referred to in popular culture by the epithet "King of the ...more

38
888 477
Stonewall Jackson is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 39 (1824-1863) Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson was a Confederate general during the American Civil War, and the best-known Confederate commander after General Robert E. Lee. His military career ...more

39
992 517
Susan B. Anthony is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 86 (1820-1906) Susan Brownell Anthony was an American social reformer and feminist who played a pivotal role in the women's suffrage movement. Born into a Quaker family committed to social equality, she ...more

40
659 318
George Marshall is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
RobLein added Dec. at 79 (1880-1959) George Catlett Marshall, Jr. was an American soldier and statesman famous for his leadership roles during WWII and others. He was Chief of Staff of the United States Army, Secretary of State, ...more

41
619 494
Henry Clay is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 75 (1777-1852) Henry Clay, Sr. was an American lawyer, politician, and skilled orator who represented Kentucky in both the United States Senate and House of Representatives. He served three different terms as ...more

42
688 276
John Quincy Adams is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 81 (1767-1848) John Quincy Adams was an American statesman who served as the sixth President of the United States from 1825 to 1829. He also served as a diplomat, a Senator and member of the House of ...more

43
765 430
Chester W. Nimitz is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 81 (1885-1966) Chester William Nimitz was a fleet admiral of the United States Navy. He played a major role in the naval history of World War II as Commander in Chief, United States Pacific Fleet, for U.S. ...more

44
744 249
Daniel Boone is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
null98Jeff added Dec. at 86 (1734-1820) Daniel Boone was an American pioneer, explorer, and frontiersman whose frontier exploits made him one of the first folk heroes of the United States. Boone is most famous for his exploration and ...more

45
707 235
Meriwether Lewis is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 35 (1774-1809) Meriwether Lewis was an American explorer, soldier, politician, and public administrator, best known for his role as the leader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, also known as the Corps of ...more

46
567 200
Eli Whitney is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 60 (1765-1825) Eli Whitney was an American inventor best known for inventing the cotton gin. This was one of the key inventions of the Industrial Revolution and shaped the economy of the Antebellum South. ...more

47
694 399
John Jay is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 84 (1745-1829) John Jay was an American statesman, Patriot, diplomat, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, signer of the Treaty of Paris, and first Chief Justice of the United States. Jay was born ...more

48
824 448
Andrew Carnegie is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 84 (1835-1919) Andrew Carnegie was a Scottish American industrialist who led the enormous expansion of the American steel industry in the late 19th century. He is also well known as a leading philanthropist. ...more

49
677 659
Woodrow Wilson is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 68 (1856-1924) Thomas Woodrow Wilson was the 28th President of the United States from 1913 to 1921 and leader of the Progressive Movement. A Southerner with a PhD in political science, he served as President ...more

50
749 525
John D. Rockefeller is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 98 (1839-1937) John Davison Rockefeller Sr. was an American business magnate and philanthropist. He was a co-founder of the Standard Oil Company, which dominated the oil industry and was the first great U.S. ...more