The greatest non-Presidential Americans of all-time – a list

I recently embarked on an effort to list the ten greatest Americans of all time who were not Presidents. I choose this exercise with the 75th Anniversary of V-E Day (May 7th or May 8th depending on your perspective) in mind . I thought it would be fairly simple and asked for input on social media.

What I found after compiling my own list of considerations and seeing numerous pieces of feedback from those on social media is nothing like this is ever simple. Therefore I then expanded the list to a top 25 as well as listing everyone I considered for the Top 25. In addition, I added some Floridians for consideration, well because it is my list.

Notes:

This list only covers from 1775 onward. So many colonial figures were excluded.

My list skews toward trailblazers – women, people of color, etc. Still plenty of room for white males. I tried to balance everything as best as possible.

No figures associated predominately with the Civil War on either side of the conflict were considered. However abolitionists and political advocates of abolition were. This is a personal decision. So Sherman, nor Lee is on this list. Nor anyone else associated primarily with those four horrible years.

A historical irony- every single person in the room advising President Truman about the relief (firing) of Douglas MacArthur made either the Top 25 or consideration list. MacArthur himself made the consideration list, though I must concede my personal biases about his conduct in Korea among other things had me sitting on the fence about even considering him.

Henry Ford made the top 25 – however I felt a combination of William Durant and Alfred P. Sloan leading GM would be more powerful than Ford. I considered combining the two but did not. Both made the consideration list.

I had a particularly hard time on J. Edgar Hoover. It was either top 10 or not considered. I ultimately opted not to consider him. For what it is worth the organized crime leaders he fought were not considered either.

Contemporary politics was to be avoided so James Baker (The Bush aide NOT the televangelist), Madeline Albright, Joe Biden, Al Gore, Condelezza Rice and Rex Tillerson all of whom were considered in my mind (Tillerson in the business category) were dropped from the consideration list. Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd, both of whom have passed away were included. Colin Powell and Erik Shinseki still were included under military.

Many on the list below the Top 25 could fit in multiple categories. I did my best to put them in the category they are most associated with. For example, I classified Cesar Chavez as “Civil Rights,” though he could easily have been in the “Labor” category as well.

I am almost sure I forgot someone :(. If I sat on this another day or two, another 1000 names might come to mind so I am going forward now. I am also almost sure everyone will disagree with this list, but I gave it a shot.

Here goes…

King speaking at the 1963 Mach on Washington

Top 10

  1. Martin Luther King Jr.
  2. Susan B. Anthony
  3. George Marshall
  4. Ben Franklin
  5. John Marshall
  6. Harriet Tubman
  7. Alexander Hamilton
  8. Thurgood Marshall
  9. Thomas Paine 
  10.  Rosa Parks 

Next 15

  1. Earl Warren
  2. John Muir
  3. Sitting Bull
  4. Frederick Douglas 
  5. Jonas Salk
  6. Clara Barton
  7. Wright Brothers
  8. Cornelius Vanderbilt
  9. Amelia Earhardt 
  10. Frank Lloyd Wright 
  11. Henry Ford
  12. Thomas Edison 
  13. William Lloyd Garrison
  14. Rachel Carson
  15. Howard Hughes

Considered for the list:

Science, Engineering & Environment

Neil Armstrong

Alexander Graham Bell

Jeff Bezos

Marjorie Harris Carr

Albert Einstein

John Glenn

John Gorrie

Charles Lindbergh 

Alan Shepard 

Nikola Tesla 

Business

Andrew Carnegie

William Durant

Bill Gates 

George Eastman 

Henry Ford

Steve Jobs

John D. Rockefeller

Alfred P. Sloan 

Juan Trippe 

Sam Walton

F.W. Woolworth

Civil Rights

Ralph Abernathy 

Julian Bond

Cesar Chavez

W.E.B. Dubois

Marcus Garvey

John Lewis 

A. Philip Randolph

Bayard Rustin

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Gloria Steinam 

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Andrew Young

Cooking

Julia Child 

Labor

John L. Lewis

Walter Reuther

Literature & Journalism

Bill Baggs

William Randolph Hearst 

Washington Irving * (Irving was not a historian and got a lot wrong in his telling of history that ultimately needed to be corrected. But a great writer nonetheless, the first really great American writer)

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Walter Lippman

Ralph McGill 

Edward R. Murrow 

Joseph Pulitzer

Edgar Allan Poe

Upton Sinclair 

Marjorie Stoneman Douglas

Henry David Thoreau 

Mark Twain

Military

Omar Bradley

Mark Clark 

Douglas MacArthur 

John Pershing 

Colin Powell

Winfield Scott

Erik Shenseki 

Music 

Ray Charles

Nat (King) Cole

Bo Diddley

Bob Dylan

Michael Jackson 

Robert Johnson

B.B. King

Elvis Pressley

John Phillip Sousa 

Muddy Waters

John Williams

Stevie Wonder

Native Americans

Billy Bowlegs

Osceola

Sam Jones

John Ross

Sequoyah 

Tecumsah 

Sports & Entertainment 

Hank Aaron 

Muhammed Ali 

Mel Blanc 

Humphrey Bogart

Marlon Brando 

Frank Capra

Walt Disney

Tom Hanks

Billie Jean King

Martina Navratilova 

Jack Nickalus 

Jackie Robinson

Steven Speilberg

Abby Wambach

Serena Williams 

Oprah Winfrey

Tiger Woods 

Politics & Government 

Dean Acheson

Samuel Adams

James G. Blaine  

William Jennings Bryan 

Robert Byrd

DeWitt Clinton

George Clinton

Eugene V. Debs

Stephen Douglas

John C. Fremont

John Hancock

Mark Hanna

Averell Harriman

Hubert Humphrey

George Keenan

Edward Kennedy

Robert Kennedy

Henry Kissinger

Fiorello LaGuardia 

Robert LaFollette

Robert McNamara

Robert Moses  

Margaret Chase Smith  

Charles Sumner 

Arthur Vandenberg

Robert Wagner 

Henry Wallace

Dr. Joseph Warren * (Warren died at the Battle Bunker Hill before independence) 

Daniel Webster

Animated Characters

Bugs Bunny

Mickey Mouse

One comment

  1. A virus from China · · Reply

    MLK was a communist
    George Marshall sympathized and protected communists
    John Marshall was a legal terrorist
    Alexander Hamilton hated the south
    Thurgood Marshall was a communist
    Earl Warren was a communist
    William Lloyd Garrison? He started the war with his writing.
    Surprised John Brown, Henry Wallace or Claude “Red” Pepper didn’t make your list.

    Like

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