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The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History

Updated June 14, 2019 248.1k votes 16.6k voters 267.5k 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 is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
    5,819
    960

    George Washington

    Dec. at 67 (1732-1799)

    BirthplaceVirginia, United States of America

    George Washington was the first President of the United States, the Commander-in-Chief of the... more on Wikipedia
  • 2
    Benjamin Franklin is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
    4,320
    797

    Benjamin Franklin

    Dec. at 84 (1706-1790)

    BirthplaceBoston, Massachusetts, United States of America

    Benjamin Franklin (January 17, 1706 [O.S. January 6, 1705] – April 17, 1790) was an American... more on Wikipedia
  • 3
    Thomas Jefferson is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
    4,144
    1,143

    Thomas Jefferson

    Dec. at 83 (1743-1826)

    BirthplaceShadwell, Virginia, United States of America

    Thomas Jefferson was an American Founding Father, the principal author of the Declaration of... more on Wikipedia
  • 4
    Theodore Roosevelt is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
    3,324
    719

    Theodore Roosevelt

    Dec. at 61 (1858-1919)

    BirthplaceManhattan, New York City, New York, United States of America

    Theodore Roosevelt Jr. ( ROH-zə-velt; October 27, 1858 – January 6, 1919) was an American... more on Wikipedia
  • 5
    Abraham Lincoln is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
    5,232
    1,608

    Abraham Lincoln

    Dec. at 56 (1809-1865)

    BirthplaceHodgenville, Kentucky, United States of America

    Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) was an American statesman and lawyer who... more on Wikipedia
  • 6
    Alexander Hamilton is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
    2,745
    783

    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 is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
    2,720
    853

    John Adams

    Dec. at 91 (1735-1826)

    BirthplaceEastern United States, Braintree, New England, Norfolk County, United States of America

    John Adams Jr. (October 30, 1735 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, attorney,... more on Wikipedia
  • 8
    George S. Patton is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
    2,227
    727

    George S. Patton

    Dec. at 60 (1885-1945)

    BirthplaceSan Gabriel, California

     (November 11, 1885 – December 21, 1945)
  • 9
    Franklin D. Roosevelt is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
    3,388
    1,451

    Franklin D. Roosevelt

    Dec. at 63 (1882-1945)

    BirthplaceHyde Park, New York, United States of America

    Franklin Delano Roosevelt (, ; January 30, 1882 – April 12, 1945), often referred to by... more on Wikipedia
  • 10
    Dwight D. Eisenhower is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
    2,501
    844

    Dwight D. Eisenhower

    Dec. at 79 (1890-1969)

    BirthplaceDenison, Texas, United States of America

    Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower ( EYE-zən-how-ər; October 14, 1890 – March 28, 1969) was an... more on Wikipedia
  • 11
    Martin Luther King, Jr. is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
    4,364
    1,913

    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 is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
    1,470
    576

    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 is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
    807
    154

    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 is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
    The Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, were two American brothers, inventors, and aviation... more on Wikipedia
  • 15
    Alexander Graham Bell is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
    1,439
    583

    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
    Ronald Reagan is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
    3,432
    1,508

    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
  • 17
    Ulysses S. Grant is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
    1,939
    879

    Ulysses S. Grant

    Dec. at 63 (1822-1885)

    BirthplaceClermont County, Ohio, United States of America, United States, with Territories

    Ulysses S. Grant (born Hiram Ulysses Grant; April 27, 1822 – July 23, 1885) was an American... more on Wikipedia
  • 18
    James Madison is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
    2,643
    1,326

    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
  • 19
    Jonas Salk is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
    1,395
    506

    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
  • 20
    Meriwether Lewis is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
    966
    393

    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
  • 21
    John Hancock is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
    1,993
    982

    John Hancock

    Dec. at 56 (1737-1793)

    BirthplaceEastern United States, Braintree, New England, Norfolk County, United States of America

    John Hancock (January 23, 1737 [O.S. January 12, 1736] – October 8, 1793) was an American... more on Wikipedia
  • 22
    Daniel Boone is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
    1,030
    451

    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
  • 23
    Frederick Douglass is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
    Frederick Douglass (born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey; c. February 1818 – February 20,... more on Wikipedia
  • 24
    Thomas Edison is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
    1,854
    964

    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
    William Clark is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History
    727
    343

    William Clark

    Dec. at 68 (1770-1838)

    BirthplaceVirginia, United States of America

    William Clark (August 1, 1770 – September 1, 1838) was an American explorer, soldier, Indian... more on Wikipedia
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