Weird History

The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History  

Mel Judson
Originally by
218.6k votes 15.1k voters 247.7k views 430 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)
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
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
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
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
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
Benjamin Franklin is listed (or ranked) 6 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
7
Martin Luther King, Jr. is listed (or ranked) 7 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
8
Donald Trump is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Ashutosh Kumar added age 72
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
9
Eleanor Roosevelt is listed (or ranked) 9 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
10
Patrick Henry is listed (or ranked) 10 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
11
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
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
Theodore Roosevelt is listed (or ranked) 13 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
14
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
Franklin D. Roosevelt is listed (or ranked) 15 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
16
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
James Monroe is listed (or ranked) 17 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
18
Ronald Reagan is listed (or ranked) 18 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
19
Dwight D. Eisenhower is listed (or ranked) 19 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
20
George S. Patton is listed (or ranked) 20 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
21
Henry Ford is listed (or ranked) 21 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
22
Thomas Edison is listed (or ranked) 22 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
23
Andrew Jackson is listed (or ranked) 23 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
24
Wright brothers is listed (or ranked) 24 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
25
Ulysses S. Grant is listed (or ranked) 25 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