Tuesday, October 04, 2005

100 Greatest Americans?

Rod & Ted's Alternate List of Greatest Americans

After reading the Discovery Channel's list of one hundred candidates for the Greatest American, Ted and I spent way too much time on creating our own version. We wound up throwing out more than half of the original list.

There was significant discussion over whether athletes and entertainers belonged on the list at all. They were certainly FAR over-represented in the original list. Probably none would be serious candidates for the single greatest American -- but the list of true candidates for that honor is very short, anyway. We settled on keeping representatives from almost the whole range of human endeavor. Most of the athletes, artists, musicians, and film actors/directors we kept were truly transformative, in our opinion. Feel free to argue!

Fields that we felt were egregiously underrepresented in the original list were writers, artists, jurists, scientists and engineers. In our current list, it's possible that business types are underrepresented. We wanted an educator, but couldn't come up with one.

In a few cases, we invoked executive privilege and listed two or three people as a single entry, when their names are rarely mentioned apart (or, in the case of Apollo 11, should be).

In a *very* few cases, the person in question is a putz. But, we felt their accomplishments were difficult to ignore, and in at least two cases, their putziness came into evidence later in life, after their accomplishments had already established their importance.

For your reading and arguing pleasure.

Keep (44):


  • Ali, Muhammad (a)
  • Angelou, Maya (w)
  • Anthony, Susan B. (l)
  • Bell, Alexander Graham (i)
  • Carnegie, Andrew (b)
  • Carson, Johnny (f)
  • Carver, George Washington (i)
  • Chavez, Cesar (l)
  • Disney, Walt (f,v,b)
  • Douglass, Frederick (l)
  • Edison, Thomas Alva (i)
  • Einstein, Albert (i)
  • Ford, Henry (b)
  • Franklin, Benjamin (i,t)
  • Gates, Bill (b)
  • Glenn, John (e,t)
  • Graham, Billy (r)
  • Hamilton, Alexander (t)
  • Jefferson, Thomas (pr,i)
  • Keller, Helen (l)
  • Kennedy, John F. (p)
  • King Jr., Dr. Martin Luther (l)
  • Lincoln, Abraham (p)
  • Lindbergh, Charles (e)
  • Malcolm X (l)
  • Murphy, Audie (s)
  • Owens, Jesse (a)
  • Patton, George (s)
  • Presley, Elvis (m)
  • Roebling, John A. ?
  • Robinson, Jackie (a)
  • Roosevelt, Franklin D (p)
  • Roosevelt, Theodore (p)
  • Ruth, Babe (a)
  • Salk, Jonas (i)
  • Smith, Joseph (r)
  • Tesla, Nikola (i)
  • Tubman, Harriet (l)
  • Twain, Mark (w)
  • Washington, George (s,p)
  • Wayne, John (f)
  • Wright, Orville & Wilbur (i)
  • Yeager, Chuck (e)


New (51):


  • Ansel Adams (v)
  • Apollo 11 crew (Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, & Michael Collins) (e)
  • Louis Armstrong (m)
  • Daniel Boone (e)
  • Ray Bradbury (w)
  • William Jennings Bryan (j)
  • Alexander Calder (v)
  • Johnny Cash (m)
  • Vint Cerf (i)
  • Edward Drinker Cope & Othniel Charles Marsh (i)
  • Aaron Copland (m)
  • Davy Crockett (e)
  • Walter Cronkite (f)
  • Glenn Curtiss (i,b)
  • Virginia Dare (o)
  • Clarence Darrow (j)
  • Charles & Ray Eames (v)
  • Richard Feynman (i)
  • Bobby Fischer * (o)
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald (w)
  • Robert Fulton (i)
  • Theodore Giesel (w)
  • William Randolph Hearst (b)
  • Ernest Hemingway (w)
  • Sam Houston (e,s,t)
  • Edwin Hubble (i)
  • Andrew Jackson (s,p)
  • Francis Scott Key (w)
  • Meriwether Lewis & William Clark (e)
  • Douglas MacArthur (s)
  • George C. Marshall (po)
  • John Marshall (j)
  • Thurgood Marshall (j)
  • Herman Melville (w)
  • Gordon Moore (i,b)
  • John Muir (e)
  • James Naismith (a)
  • John von Neumann (i)
  • Sandra Day O'Connor (j)
  • Robert Oppenheimer (i)
  • Linus Pauling (i)
  • Edgar Allen Poe (w)
  • Sacajawea (e)
  • Charles Schulz (v)
  • William Shockley (i) *
  • Siegel & Schuster (v)
  • Henry David Thoreau (w)
  • Andy Warhol (v)
  • James Watson (i)
  • Orson Welles (f)
  • Walt Whitman (w)
  • Frank Lloyd Wright (v)


* = putz, but...

Our breakdown for the whole 100, by profession (totals exceed 100 because our list is actually slightly over 100, and some have two professions):


p: presidents: 7
s: soldiers: 6
j: jurists/lawyers: 5
t: other politicians/statesmen: 5
l: labor/rights/activists: 7
e: adventurers/explorers/astronauts/pioneers: 13
i: scientists/inventors: 22
v: visual arts/design/architecture: 9
w: writers: 11
f: film/tv: 4
m: musicians: 4
a: athletes: 5
b: business: 5
r: religion: 2
o: other: 2


Eliminate (56):


  • Armstrong, Lance
  • Armstrong, Neil
  • Ball, Lucille
  • Bush, Barbara
  • Bush, George H. W.
  • Bush, George W.
  • Bush, Laura
  • Carter, Jimmy
  • Charles, Ray
  • Clinton, Bill
  • Clinton, Hillary
  • Cosby, Bill
  • Cruise, Tom
  • DeGeneres, Ellen
  • Earhart, Amelia
  • Eastwood, Clint
  • Edwards, John
  • Eisenhower, Dwight (s,pr)
  • Favre, Brett
  • Gibson, Mel
  • Giuliani, Rudolph
  • Hanks, Tom
  • Hefner, Hugh
  • Hepburn, Katharine
  • Hope, Bob
  • Hughes, Howard
  • Jackson, Michael
  • Jobs, Steve
  • Johnson, Lyndon B.
  • Jordan, Michael
  • Kennedy, Robert F.
  • Kennedy Onassis, Jacqueline
  • Limbaugh, Rush
  • Lucas, George
  • Madonna
  • McGraw, Dr. Phil
  • Monroe, Marilyn
  • Moore, Michael
  • Nixon, Richard
  • Obama, Barack
  • Parks, Rosa
  • Powell, Colin
  • Reagan, Ronald
  • Reeve, Christopher
  • Rice, Condoleezza
  • Roosevelt, Eleanor
  • Sagan, Carl
  • Schwarzenegger, Arnold
  • Sinatra, Frank
  • Spielberg, Steven
  • Stewart, Jimmy
  • Stewart, Martha
  • Tillman, Pat
  • Truman, Harry
  • Trump, Donald
  • Walton, Sam
  • Winfrey, Oprah
  • Woods, Tiger


Honorable Mentions:


  • Isaac Asimov
  • Carl Barks
  • Vannevar Bush
  • John Coltrane
  • Charles Curtis
  • Miles Davis
  • Phillip K. Dick
  • Elizabeth Dole
  • Duke Ellington (m)
  • Philo T. Farnsworth
  • William Faulkner
  • Geraldine Ferraroo
  • Hal Foster
  • Hugo Gernsback
  • Samuel Gompers
  • U.S. Grant
  • Devil Anse Hatfield
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Robert Heinlein
  • Frank Herbert
  • Billie Holliday
  • Harry Houdini
  • Mother Jones
  • Bob Kahn
  • Bob Kane
  • Chief Logan
  • Mercury Seven, the rest
  • Nancy Landon Kassebaum
  • Walt Kelly
  • Chief Logan
  • Wilma Mankiller
  • Winsor McKay
  • Charlier Parker
  • Frances Perkins
  • Jon Postel
  • James Randi
  • Norman Rockwell
  • Nellie Tayloe Ross
  • Chief Seattle
  • Claude Shannon
  • Upton Sinclair
  • Dr. Spock
  • Jim Thorpe
  • Gore Vidal
  • Booker T. Washington
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Woodrow Wilson
  • Woodward & Bernstein
  • Daniel Carter Beard & William D. Boyce

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