The 100 Greatest Americans

NewMexiKen frees up 57 of the 100 slots from the AOL and Discovery Channel list of 100 Greatest Americans.

  1. Abraham Lincoln — NewMexiKen’s greatest American
  2. Albert Einstein — came to America at age 54; important work done more than 25 years earlier
  3. Alexander Graham Bell — Canadian
  4. Alexander Hamilton — if you’re on the currency you make the list
  5. Amelia Earhart — does a woman get to be great simply for being the first to do what men did?
  6. Andrew Carnegie — for philanthropy more than steel
  7. Arnold Schwarzenegger — not a good actor, not a good governor
  8. Audie Murphy — most highly decorated soldier of World War II (28 medals), all before age 21
  9. Babe Ruth — yes, made professional athletics part of popular culture
  10. Barack Obama — one speech, one big-time election; we’ll see
  11. Barbara Bush — when Jeb gets elected president maybe, but until then my vote goes to Abigail Adams
  12. Benjamin Franklin — top five; the first American
  13. Bill Clinton — was unfairly attacked but provided the ammunition; best president to hang out with, not great
  14. Bill Cosby (William Henry Cosby, Jr.) — one of several people on the list NewMexiKen has seen in person, so gets extra credit; integrated television, no small thing
  15. Bill Gates — another I’ve seen in person; capitalism is what America is about
  16. Billy Graham — anti-Semitic remarks to Nixon
  17. Bob Hope; wasn’t funny; Bing Crosby gets my vote
  18. Brett Favre; Johnny U maybe, not Brett; only one ring
  19. Carl Sagan — role was to popularize science, especially space; look where he’s left us
  20. Cesar Chavez — labor and ethnic leader; changed perceptions
  21. Charles Lindbergh — heroism isn’t by itself greatness; Nazi sympathizer
  22. Christopher Reeve — tragedy isn’t greatness
  23. Chuck Yeager — a cool guy; but bottom line just a test pilot
  24. Clint Eastwood — Harry Callahan makes the list maybe; Clint I think not
  25. Colin Powell — failed to respect his own conscience
  26. Condoleezza Rice — 9/11
  27. Donald Trump — other moguls have done more with less
  28. Dwight D. Eisenhower — won the war; didn’t try to undo the New Deal
  29. Eleanor Roosevelt (Anna Eleanor Roosevelt) — first First Lady to lead publicly; important change for women
  30. Ellen DeGeneres — not even funny; Fanny Brice gets my vote
  31. Elvis Presley — of course; changed popular music
  32. Frank Sinatra — NewMexiKen would rather listen to Frank than Elvis, but Frank was not a revolutionary
  33. Franklin D. Roosevelt — America’s most conservative president; willing to accept change to preserve the system
  34. Frederick Douglass — a great presence when one was most needed
  35. George H. W. Bush — if your claim to greatness is being President, you have to be re-elected
  36. George W. Bush — name one accomplishment
  37. George Lucas — ruined movies forever, but great at it
  38. George Patton — eccentric, daring, an ass; my vote is with Omar Bradley
  39. George Washington — the indispensable American; second only to Lincoln
  40. George Washington Carver — there are sufficient African-American leaders now; Carver can be retired
  41. Harriet Ross Tubman — escaped slave, put her life on the line to help more escape; women’s rights leader
  42. Harry Truman — among the top Presidents surely
  43. Helen Keller — overcame obstacles most of us can’t even imagine
  44. Henry Ford — for the $5 dollar day and the assembly line; pay people enough so they can buy your product
  45. Hillary Rodham Clinton — not yet
  46. Howard Hughes — too many fatal flaws
  47. Hugh Hefner — for publishing photos of nude women; I don’t think so; Hefner is on the list but not Hearst, nor Pulitzer, nor Luce, go figure
  48. Jackie Robinson (Jack Roosevelt Robinson) — superb athlete but makes the list for grace under fire
  49. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis — points for style and grace; but nothing more
  50. Jesse Owens — rose to the occasion and dispelled the Aryan myth in front of the world
  51. Jimmy Carter — a successful man in everything except the presidency
  52. Jimmy Stewart — not even among the greatest actors
  53. John Edwards — is there some other John Edwards? surely this isn’t the one-term senator
  54. John Glenn — marine officer, game show contestant, astronaut, Senator, back in space in his seventies
  55. John F. Kennedy — lots and lots of points for not ending the world during the Cuban missile crisis but name something else he accomplished
  56. John Wayne — actors become the best by pretending to be other people; can an actor be a great American?
  57. Johnny Carson (John William Carson) — another tough one (and another I’ve seen in person); does he get credit for keeping the national discourse on a higher plane while he was such an influence?
  58. Jonas Edward Salk — NewMexiKen saw enough of polio as a child to know what Salk did
  59. Joseph Smith Jr. — Brigham Young surely, but not Smith
  60. Katharine Hepburn — fine actress; what else?
  61. Lance Armstrong — great athlete and his public battle with cancer is significant, but I just don’t think he’s transcended athletics yet, like Ruth or Robinson or Owens
  62. Laura Bush — married beneath herself
  63. Lucille Ball — I Love Lucy
  64. Lyndon B. Johnson — a tough one for NewMexiKen; in the end, fatally flawed; but the “We Shall Overcome” speech (in support of the Civil Rights Act) is a signal moment in American history; he stays
  65. Madonna (Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone) — why not Cher? why not Barbra? are they not strong women who managed their own entertainment careers? Is that sufficient? No.
  66. Malcolm X (Malcolm Little) — Alex Haley’s Autobiography of Malcolm X tries to convince us Malcolm was changing at the time of his assassination; had he lived he may well have become a more important historical figure
  67. Marilyn Monroe — talented, gorgeous, tragic, but not great
  68. Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) — “THE” American writer
  69. Martha Stewart — huh? Jon Stewart maybe, Payne Stewart even; not Martha
  70. Martin Luther King Jr. — you get a holiday named after you, you make the list; greater for what he represented and how he lead than for who he was, but if you doubt him go read his letter from Birmingham Jail; that alone puts him on the list
  71. Maya Angelou — there are far more significant writers
  72. Mel Gibson — he was born in the U.S., but he’s a hack, however successful
  73. Michael Jackson — there are scores of better entertainers who aren’t freakin’ whackos
  74. Michael Jordan — Michael is “THE” American athlete as far as much of the world is concerned; his time on the list may be short, but he’s there for now
  75. Michael Moore — absurd
  76. Muhammad Ali (Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr.) — another athlete that rose above athletics; as time passes he may seem less important, however, for now he stays
  77. Neil Alden Armstrong — not sure Armstrong was “great” but what he did was; NewMexiKen believes Armstrong will be the most famous person from our times in 500 years
  78. Nikola Tesla — too many of you are saying “who?” for Tesla to make the list; a great electrical engineer, but true greatness is moving beyond your primary field and achieving fame elsewhere as well [Update: Tesla should be included. See comments.]
  79. Oprah Winfrey — Oprah’s influence is unbelievable and mostly positive; I included Carson, she rises to that level
  80. Pat Tillman — bless his patriotic heart, but get real
  81. Dr. Phil McGraw — LOL
  82. Ray Charles — heroin-addict womanizer who helped revolutionize popular music
  83. Richard Nixon — let’s not kick Nixon around
  84. Robert Kennedy — inspirational leader for a couple months
  85. Ronald Reagan — changed American politics
  86. Rosa Parks — maybe the toughest one; symbol for so much; in the end, her own actions are too specific, too limited
  87. Rudolph W. Giuliani — he rose to the occasion, but what else?
  88. Rush Limbaugh — greatness implies not appealing to the lowest common denominator
  89. Sam Walton — changed American retailing; JC Penney and Montgomery Ward were probably as influential, but we’re living with Walton today
  90. Steve Jobs — maybe Jobs could be included with Wozniak for inventing the PC; but not for running Apple
  91. Steven Spielberg — a pretty impressive and varied body of work to date, but …
  92. Susan B. Anthony — NewMexiKen rule: you make the currency (or coins) you make the list
  93. Theodore Roosevelt — one of the great presidents
  94. Thomas Edison — inventor in so many areas and also entrepreneur: General Electric
  95. Thomas Jefferson — drafted the Declaration of Independence; that’s enough right there and he was just getting started
  96. Tiger Woods — still just an athlete and celebrity
  97. Tom Cruise — one of the silliest on the list, though he was good in Collateral
  98. Tom Hanks — arguably the best actor on the list; but not the best actor who could be on the list
  99. Walt Disney — Mickey, Donald, Goofy — that’s good enough for me
  100. Wright Brothers (Orville & Wilbur Wright) — up-up-and-away

NewMexiKen opened up 57 slots on the 100 Greatest Americans list. Their replacements:

First, I suggested three as I deleted the others:

  1. Bing Crosby
  2. Brigham Young
  3. Omar Bradley

Then, I liked Functional Ambivalent’s nominees, so they’re in as a block, counting Lewis and Clark as one:

  1. Lewis and Clark
  2. Ernest Hemingway
  3. Frank Lloyd Wright
  4. Margaret Sanger
  5. David Sarnoff
  6. Douglas MacArthur
  7. W.C. Handy
  8. Ray Kroc
  9. Rachel Carson

A few incredibly important political-military-judicial figures need to be added:

  1. James Madison
  2. John Adams
  3. Ulysses Grant
  4. George Marshall
  5. John Marshall
  6. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
  7. Earl Warren
  8. Thurgood Marshall
  9. Jane Addams

Inventors were among America’s greatest contribution to the world:

  1. Eli Whitney — the cotton gin yes, but much more importantly, interchangable parts
  2. Samuel Colt — automatic firearms
  3. Cyrus McCormick — agricultural implements
  4. Samuel F. B. Morse — communication
  5. Philo Farnsworth — television
  6. James Watson — DNA

And how about the robber barons:

  1. John Jacob Astor — established America’s first settlement on the Pacific Coast
  2. John D. Rockefeller — oil
  3. J.P. Morgan — capital
  4. William C. Durant — General Motors

And the writers:

  1. John Muir — for his conservation ideology
  2. Louisa Mae Alcott — every young woman read her novels; immeasurable influence
  3. Edgar Alan Poe — Evermore
  4. Toni Morrison — Nobel Prize; seems more relevant than Pearl Buck, another American woman Nobel Prize winner
  5. Sinclair Lewis — Nobel Prize; The Jungle
  6. William Faulkner — Nobel Prize

American music:

  1. Stephen Foster — the 19th century
  2. Irving Berlin — the 20th century
  3. Louis Armstrong — the greatest American musician; changed music forever
  4. Duke Ellington — America’s greatest composer
  5. Hank Williams — did for Country what Elvis did for pop and Ray Charles did for Rhythm & Blues — revolutionized it

Originally, I stopped here, thinking I had gotten to 99. A comment pointed out that I omitted numbers 44-56 (corrected above). So I added:

  1. Charles Lindbergh — see comment re: Lindbergh
  2. Frank Capra
  3. John Ford
  4. Orson Welles
  5. Jedediah Smith
  6. John Wesley Powell
  7. Sequoyah
  8. Sitting Bull
  9. Chief Joseph
  10. Sam Adams
  11. “Black Jack” Pershing
  12. Hyman Rickover
  13. Joseph Henry — foremost American scientist of the 19th century

Which still left me two names short. Alas.

9 thoughts on “The 100 Greatest Americans”

  1. The list you edited sucks, and your final suggestions are weak. Why are the writers Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Walt Whitman not mentioned anywhere? I also didn’t see Ralph Nader on the list.

  2. As noted, the original list wasn’t mine and indeed it did suck.

    And Ralph Nader wouldn’t even make my list of 100 Greatest Ralphs.

  3. NewMexiKen rule: you make the currency (or coins) you make the list.

    Then shouldn’t Sagagewa make the list? Especially if Lewis and Clark make the list!

  4. John Moses Browning certainly deserves to make the list; Browning was an American genius in the design of both military and sporting small arms that revolutionized the industry. Notable designs include the Colt Pocket Hammerless Model 1903 and variants, Colt M1911 .45 semiauto pistol for which he also designed the cartridge, the Browning Hi-Power 9mm semiauto pistol, the Remington Model 17 Pump-action shotgun (and future variants Ithaca Model 37 and Browning BPS), the Winchester M1897 pump action shotgun, the Browning Auto-5 (the first semi-automatic shotgun), the graceful Browning Superposed over/under shotgun, the Browning M1917 and 1919 light machine gun, the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR), and Winchester Models 1892, 1894, and 1895 lever-action rifles, the Browning M2 Heavy Machine Gun (which reamins in use), and many others. Browning’s designs not only “Won the West”, but WWI and WWII as well in the form of sidearms, trench guns, and machine guns both light and heavy that simply outstripped the competition. To his credit, many of his designs have yet to be meaningfully imroved, and remain in production and use today by countless militaries and sportsmen. While there are many notable firearms designers, none may even approach the broad portfolio and breakthrough designs of Browning. John Moses Browning simply cannot be overlooked on the list of 100 Greatest Americans.

  5. If George Washington Carver should be retired because there are newer African Americans to fill the bill, why don’t we retire George Washington himself?

    Carver was an inventor of the firt class and a moral leader in a difficult time. His color is irrelevant to his greatness. Or do you have a color quota, so he had to go?

    Franklin Roosevelt was a conservative? Who was smoking what when they concocted this list? Roosevelt was a Keynesian who help jump start our bloated government to its current sad, greedy and imperial state. A study out of one of the California universities shows that the damage he did has never been completely overcome. I hope he and his economist Keynes are enjoying eternity together.

    How come no American economists on this list? As we are learning, it is the economic engine which drives everything else. Throw a wrench into it and watch us come to a standstill.

    You also left out the great military strategists we’ve produced. John Boyd revolutionized military thinking. Businesses use his concepts to remain competitive.

    Margaret Sanger was a racist. She wanted to sterilize blacks, as many as possible. Great role model.

    Toni Morrison’s writing is pedestrian.

    Eisenhower signed off on and conducted a program called “Operation Wetback” — yeah, illegal immigration was a problem back then, but obviously p.c. language wasn’t. Some professor was disciplined recently for referring to this piece of history…now he has to attend re-education camp, where no doubt they will give him a revisionist term for President’s Eisenhower’s program.

    George Bush — I’ll name one thing he did. He was our president during 9/11. It could have been John Kerry. Count your blessings..

    Oprah Winfrey but not Rush Limbaugh? My, our political predilections are showing here. Both are popular personalities, but he could talk that woman under the table without needing any notes. I’ll bet she wouldn’t have the courage to have him on her show. In 25 years, who will remember either of them?

    This list has no scope. Obviously not compiled by anyone with a sound historical background, but is someone who watches a lot of television. And believes what he/she watches.

    The title of this listing would be more aptly named: People I Like, With a Few Others Thrown In To Appear Balanced.

    In ten years, whomever it was who compiled this thing will want to bury it — but there it will be, floating in the ether and occasionally be dragged out as a cautionary tale.

    By the way, Bob Hope did far more good by entertaining several generations of military troops than Bing Crosby ever did with all his years of golf. And he never advocated hitting children as a form of discipline, which Crosby did on several occasions.

  6. After looking at this list again because it appeared in the comments section, I think perhaps original entry #10 may be gaining a place back on the list. I hope he will live up to the criteria, at least.

  7. What I absolutely do not understand is how you OR the retards who compiled the original list could ever overlook the contributions of Thomas Paine. No one was more instrimental than Paine for getting the news of the American Revolution and why it was a good idea out to the average person on the street than Paine’s pamphlet ‘Common Sence.’ He was sent away from England for starting a revolution there, he spurred on the American Revolution, and his writings very nearly started a revolution in France, for crying out loud! He was literally the first Amercican to talk about the importance of individual rights, and the first person in HISTORY to question the idea of using Old-Testament morals as the sole compass for morality in his book, ‘The Age of Reason!!! He is no doubt, bar none, unquestionably THE greatest philosopher in American history! The American Revolution would simply not be possible without him. In my mind, he is in the top five, but you’re right; there are a lot of stupid picks on the original list. Another one you both snubbed: Edwin Hubbell, the great Astronomer. He was the one who discovered that our own galaxy, The Milky Way, is not the only one.

  8. Glad to see you add Marshall and leave off MacArthur, twisted mama’s boy.

    Wish your posters would acknowledge spell-check.

    Curtiss LeMay perhaps? His carpet bombing and firestorm techniques perfected in Germany carried over to Japan prevented the need for invasion at tremendous loss of life (atom bomb fans notwithstanding) and was a philosophy that directly influenced the Mutual Assured Destruction policies that kept the Soviets at bay for so many years.

    Good thing we won or he’d have been hoisted up on war-crimes charges.

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