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

Mel Judson
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171.1k votes 11k voters 214.8k views 434 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
3,436 1,029
Abraham Lincoln is listed (or ranked) 1 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 assassination in April 1865. Lincoln led the United States through its Civil War—its bloodiest war ...more

2
3,636 579
George Washington is listed (or ranked) 2 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 during the American Revolutionary War, and one of the Founding Fathers of the ...more

3
2,852 627
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
1,899 780
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
1,592 902
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
2,277 4,768
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
1,725 1,622
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
3,174 332
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
1,297 796
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
3,013 1,125
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
2,265 1,211
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
1,978 519
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
2,492 798
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, commonly known by his initials FDR, was an American statesman and political leader who served as the 32nd President of the United States. A Democrat, he won a record ...more

14
1,638 648
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, smuggler, statesman, and prominent Patriot of the American Revolution. He served as president of the Second Continental Congress and was the first and third Governor ...more

15
2,307 420
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
1,916 503
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
2,235 1,030
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
1,825 548
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 World War II and served as ...more

19
1,140 559
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
1,245 788
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
1,381 604
Thomas Edison is listed (or ranked) 21 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

22
1,287 850
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
1,414 645
Ulysses S. Grant is listed (or ranked) 23 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 in ...more

24
1,471 422
George S. Patton is listed (or ranked) 24 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 World War II, but is best known for his ...more

25
941 1,219
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis is listed (or ranked) 25 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 from 1961 ...more

26
1,150 599
Douglas MacArthur is listed (or ranked) 26 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

27
1,288 408
Wright brothers is listed (or ranked) 27 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

28
1,349 739
Robert E. Lee is listed (or ranked) 28 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

29
1,137 462
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 (May 8, 1884 – December 26, 1972) was an American statesman who served as the 33rd President of the United States (1945–1953), taking the office upon the death of Franklin D. ...more

30
1,097 387
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
915 647
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
1,110 383
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
984 340
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
862 433
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
923 443
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
1,068 445
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
652 313
George Marshall is listed (or ranked) 37 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 World War II and the Cold War. He was Chief of Staff of the United States Army, ...more

38
980 513
Susan B. Anthony is listed (or ranked) 38 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

39
682 271
John Quincy Adams is listed (or ranked) 39 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

40
611 489
Henry Clay is listed (or ranked) 40 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

41
727 298
Davy Crockett is listed (or ranked) 41 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

42
756 425
Chester W. Nimitz is listed (or ranked) 42 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

43
739 243
Daniel Boone is listed (or ranked) 43 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

44
699 231
Meriwether Lewis is listed (or ranked) 44 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

45
880 469
Stonewall Jackson is listed (or ranked) 45 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

46
687 396
John Jay is listed (or ranked) 46 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

47
816 445
Andrew Carnegie is listed (or ranked) 47 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

48
743 520
John D. Rockefeller is listed (or ranked) 48 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

49
671 654
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
524 213
William Clark is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 68 (1770-1838) William Clark was an American explorer, soldier, Indian agent, and territorial governor. A native of Virginia, he grew up in prestatehood Kentucky before later settling in what became the state ...more