Weird History
17.2k voters

The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History

Updated January 25, 2021 252.4k votes 17.2k voters 274.3k views432 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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  • George Washington1
    5,810
    952

    George Washington

    Dec. at 67 (1732-1799)

    BirthplacePopes Creek, Colony of Virginia, British America

    George Washington was the first President of the United States, the Commander-in-Chief of the...  more
  • Benjamin Franklin2
    4,326
    824

    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
  • Thomas Jefferson3
    4,126
    1,159

    Thomas Jefferson

    Dec. at 83 (1743-1826)

    BirthplaceShadwell, Colony of Virginia, British America

    Thomas Jefferson was an American Founding Father, the principal author of the Declaration of...  more
  • Abraham Lincoln4
    5,353
    1,548

    Abraham Lincoln

    Dec. at 56 (1809-1865)

    BirthplaceKentucky, Hodgenville, United States of America, United States, with Territories

    Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) was an American statesman and lawyer who...  more
  • Theodore Roosevelt5
    3,358
    765

    Theodore Roosevelt

    Dec. at 61 (1858-1919)

    BirthplaceNew York City, Manhattan, Area code 917, Contiguous United States, New York

    Theodore Roosevelt Jr. ( ROH-zə-velt; October 27, 1858 – January 6, 1919) was an American...  more
  • Alexander Hamilton6
    2,770
    828

    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
  • John Adams7
    2,725
    876

    John Adams

    Dec. at 91 (1735-1826)

    BirthplaceBraintree, Massachusetts Bay, British America

    John Adams Jr. (October 30, 1735 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, attorney,...  more
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt8
    3,488
    1,436

    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
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower9
    2,531
    872

    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
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.10
    4,450
    1,853

    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
  • George S. Patton11
    2,246
    789

    George S. Patton

    Dec. at 60 (1885-1945)

    BirthplaceSan Gabriel, California

     (November 11, 1885 – December 21, 1945)
    George Smith Patton Jr. (November 11, 1885 – December 21, 1945) was a General of the United...  more
  • Nikola Tesla12
    891
    226

    Nikola Tesla

    Dec. at 87 (1856-1943)

    BirthplaceSmiljan, Croatia

    Nikola Tesla was a Serbian American inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer,...  more
  • Samuel Adams13
    1,498
    616

    Samuel Adams

    Dec. at 81 (1722-1803)

    BirthplaceEastern United States, Boston, Area code 617, New England, United States of America

    Samuel Adams (September 27 [O.S. September 16] 1722 – October 2, 1803) was an American...  more
  • Wright Brothers14
    The Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, were two American brothers, inventors, and aviation...  more
  • James Madison15
    2,633
    1,295

    James Madison

    Dec. at 85 (1751-1836)

    BirthplacePort Conway, Colony of Virginia, British America

    James Madison Jr. (March 16, 1751 – June 28, 1836) was an American statesman, lawyer,...  more
  • Alexander Graham Bell16
    1,489
    600

    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
  • Ulysses S. Grant17
    1,981
    889

    Ulysses S. Grant

    Dec. at 63 (1822-1885)

    BirthplacePoint Pleasant, Ohio, United States of America

    Ulysses S. Grant (born Hiram Ulysses Grant; April 27, 1822 – July 23, 1885) was an American...  more
  • John Hancock18
    1,992
    985

    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
  • Ronald Reagan19
    3,432
    1,567

    Ronald Reagan

    Dec. at 93 (1911-2004)

    BirthplaceTampico, Illinois, USA

    Ronald Wilson Reagan (; February 6, 1911 – June 5, 2004) was an American politician who served...  more
  • Frederick Douglass20
    Frederick Douglass (born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey; c. February 1818 – February 20,...  more
  • Jonas Salk21
    1,449
    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
  • Meriwether Lewis22
    972
    427

    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
  • Thomas Edison23
    1,878
    972

    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
  • Daniel Boone24
    1,048
    496

    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
  • John F. Kennedy25
    3,192
    1,776

    John F. Kennedy

    Dec. at 46 (1917-1963)

    BirthplaceBrookline, Massachusetts, USA

    John Fitzgerald Kennedy (May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963), often referred to by initials JFK...  more