Weird History
16.8k voters

The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History

Updated June 14, 2019 253.7k votes 16.8k voters 270.0k views433 items

List RulesAmerican 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.
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  • 1
    George Washington
    5,906
    974

    George Washington

    Dec. at 67 (1732-1799)

    BirthplaceVirginia, USA

    George Washington was the first President of the United States, the Commander-in-Chief of the... more on Wikipedia
  • 2
    Benjamin Franklin
    4,380
    821

    Benjamin Franklin

    Dec. at 84 (1706-1790)

    BirthplaceBoston, Massachusetts, USA

    Benjamin Franklin (January 17, 1706 [O.S. January 6, 1705] – April 17, 1790) was an American... more on Wikipedia
  • 3
    Thomas Jefferson
    4,200
    1,165

    Thomas Jefferson

    Dec. at 83 (1743-1826)

    BirthplaceShadwell, Virginia, USA

    Thomas Jefferson was an American Founding Father, the principal author of the Declaration of... more on Wikipedia
  • 4
    Abraham Lincoln
    5,348
    1,613

    Abraham Lincoln

    Dec. at 56 (1809-1865)

    BirthplaceHodgenville, Kentucky, USA

    Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) was an American statesman and lawyer who... more on Wikipedia
  • 5
    Theodore Roosevelt
    3,368
    751

    Theodore Roosevelt

    Dec. at 61 (1858-1919)

    BirthplaceManhattan, New York City, New York, USA

    Theodore Roosevelt Jr. ( ROH-zə-velt; October 27, 1858 – January 6, 1919) was an American... more on Wikipedia
  • 6
    Alexander Hamilton
    2,791
    813

    Alexander Hamilton

    Dec. at 47 (1757-1804)

    BirthplaceCharlestown, Saint Kitts and Nevis

    Alexander Hamilton (January 11, 1755 or 1757 – July 12, 1804) was an American statesman,... more on Wikipedia
  • 7
    John Adams
    2,757
    877

    John Adams

    Dec. at 91 (1735-1826)

    BirthplaceBraintree, Massachusetts, USA

    John Adams Jr. (October 30, 1735 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, attorney,... more on Wikipedia
  • 8
    Dwight D. Eisenhower
    2,556
    865

    Dwight D. Eisenhower

    Dec. at 79 (1890-1969)

    BirthplaceDenison, Texas, USA

    Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower ( EYE-zən-how-ər; October 14, 1890 – March 28, 1969) was an... more on Wikipedia
  • 9
    George S. Patton
    2,271
    764

    George S. Patton

    Dec. at 60 (1885-1945)

    BirthplaceSan Gabriel, California

     (November 11, 1885 – December 21, 1945)
  • 10
    Franklin D. Roosevelt
    3,454
    1,475

    Franklin D. Roosevelt

    Dec. at 63 (1882-1945)

    BirthplaceNew York City, Hyde Park, New York, USA

    Franklin Delano Roosevelt (, ; January 30, 1882 – April 12, 1945), often referred to by... more on Wikipedia
  • 11
    Martin Luther King, Jr.
    4,435
    1,928

    Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Dec. at 39 (1929-1968)

    BirthplaceAtlanta, Georgia, United States of America

    Martin Luther King Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was an American Baptist minister and... more on Wikipedia
  • 12
    Samuel Adams
    1,493
    601

    Samuel Adams

    Dec. at 81 (1722-1803)

    BirthplaceBoston, Massachusetts, USA

    Samuel Adams (September 27 [O.S. September 16] 1722 – October 2, 1803) was an American... more on Wikipedia
  • 13
    Nikola Tesla
    851
    186

    Nikola Tesla

    Dec. at 87 (1856-1943)

    BirthplaceSmiljan, Croatia

    Nikola Tesla was a Serbian American inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer,... more on Wikipedia
  • 14
    Wright Brothers
    The Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, were two American brothers, inventors, and aviation... more on Wikipedia
  • 15
    Alexander Graham Bell
    1,468
    603

    Alexander Graham Bell

    Dec. at 75 (1847-1922)

    BirthplaceEdinburgh, United Kingdom

    Alexander Graham Bell ('Graham' pronounced ) (March 3, 1847 – August 2, 1922) was a ... more on Wikipedia
  • 16
    James Madison
    2,685
    1,337

    James Madison

    Dec. at 85 (1751-1836)

    BirthplacePort Conway, Virginia, USA

    James Madison Jr. (March 16, 1751 – June 28, 1836) was an American statesman, lawyer,... more on Wikipedia
  • 17
    Ulysses S. Grant
    1,983
    895

    Ulysses S. Grant

    Dec. at 63 (1822-1885)

    BirthplacePoint Pleasant, Ohio, USA

    Ulysses S. Grant (born Hiram Ulysses Grant; April 27, 1822 – July 23, 1885) was an American... more on Wikipedia
  • 18
    Ronald Reagan
    3,495
    1,552

    Ronald Reagan

    Dec. at 93 (1911-2004)

    BirthplaceTampico, Illinois, United States of America

    Ronald Wilson Reagan (; February 6, 1911 – June 5, 2004) was an American politician who served... more on Wikipedia
  • 19
    Meriwether Lewis
    982
    413

    Meriwether Lewis

    Dec. at 35 (1774-1809)

    BirthplaceIvy, Virginia, United States of America

    Meriwether Lewis (August 18, 1774 – October 11, 1809) was an American explorer, soldier,... more on Wikipedia
  • 20
    Jonas Salk
    1,429
    520

    Jonas Salk

    Dec. at 81 (1914-1995)

    BirthplaceNew York City, New York

    Jonas Edward Salk (; October 28, 1914 – June 23, 1995) was an American medical researcher and... more on Wikipedia
  • 21
    Daniel Boone
    1,049
    471

    Daniel Boone

    Dec. at 86 (1734-1820)

    BirthplaceDaniel Boone Homestead, Birdsboro, Pennsylvania

    Daniel Boone (November 2, 1734 [O.S. October 22] – September 26, 1820) was an American... more on Wikipedia
  • 22
    John Hancock
    2,017
    994

    John Hancock

    Dec. at 56 (1737-1793)

    BirthplaceBraintree, Massachusetts, USA

    John Hancock (January 23, 1737 [O.S. January 12, 1736] – October 8, 1793) was an American... more on Wikipedia
  • 23
    Frederick Douglass
    Frederick Douglass (born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey; c. February 1818 – February 20,... more on Wikipedia
  • 24
    Thomas Edison
    1,887
    978

    Thomas Edison

    Dec. at 84 (1847-1931)

    BirthplaceMilan, Ohio, United States of America

    Thomas Alva Edison (February 11, 1847 – October 18, 1931) was an American inventor and... more on Wikipedia
  • 25
    John Glenn
    1,010
    466

    John Glenn

    Age: 99

    BirthplaceGuernsey County, Cambridge, Ohio, United States of America, United States

    John Herschel Glenn Jr. (July 18, 1921 – December 8, 2016) was a United States Marine Corps... more on Wikipedia