Weird History

The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History  

Mel Judson
Originally by
222.3k votes 15.3k voters 250.2k 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)
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 (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
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. (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
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 (born Thomas Pain) (February 9, 1737 [O.S. January 29, 1736] – June 8, 1809) was an English-born American political activist, philosopher, political theorist, and revolutionary. He ...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 (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
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. (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
8
Eleanor Roosevelt is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 78 (1884-1962)
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (; October 11, 1884 – November 7, 1962) was an American political figure, diplomat and activist. She served as the First Lady of the United States from March 4, 1933 to ...more
9
Donald Trump is listed (or ranked) 9 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. Before entering politics, he was a businessman and television personality. Trump was born and ...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 (May 29, 1736 – June 6, 1799) was an American attorney, planter, and orator best known for his declaration to the Second Virginia Convention (1775): "Give me liberty, or give ...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), often referred to by initials JFK and Jack, was an American politician who served as the 35th president of the United States 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 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
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 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
14
Franklin D. Roosevelt is listed (or ranked) 14 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 initials FDR, was an American statesman and political leader who served as the 32nd president of the ...more
15
Alexander Hamilton is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 47 (1757-1804)
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
16
John Hancock is listed (or ranked) 16 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
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 (; 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
18
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 ( 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
19
Ronald Reagan is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
AmandaHall added Dec. at 93 (1911-2004)
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
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. (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
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 (July 30, 1863 – April 7, 1947) was an American industrialist and a business magnate, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, and the sponsor of the development of the assembly line ...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 (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
23
Wright brothers is listed (or ranked) 23 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
24
Ulysses S. Grant is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 63 (1822-1885)
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
25
Andrew Jackson is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
Dec. at 78 (1767-1845)
Andrew Jackson (March 15, 1767 – June 8, 1845) was an American soldier and statesman who served as the seventh president of the United States from 1829 to 1837. Before being elected to the ...more