The Greatest American

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The Great Americans
Presented by Matt Lauer
Country of origin United States
Executive producer(s) Jason Raff
Original network Discovery Channel
Original release 5 June 2005 (2005-06-05)

The Greatest American was a four-part American television series hosted by Matt Lauer in 2005. The show featured biographies and lists of influential persons in U.S. history, and culminated in a contest in which millions in the audience nominated and voted for the person they felt was the "greatest American". The competition was conducted by AOL and the Discovery Channel and reported on by the BBC.


Nominations were accepted through 31 January 2005. The seven-hour-long series was broken into four episodes: The first episode counted down the top 100 and introduced the top 25 nominees in alphabetical order. The second episode featured biographies of the top 25 nominees as well as commentaries from influential people such as celebrities and politicians. The third episode, called "The Great Debate", introduced the top five nominees and pitted the studio audience supporters of each of the nominees and a person selected to represent each of the top five candidates against a panel of three celebrities. In the finale the top five "Greatest Americans" were announced as well as what percentage of the votes each had received. Votes were taken through a toll free (if calling from a land line) phone number, through text messages from cell phones, and through online voting. Voters were allowed to vote three times per voting method, so anyone had a chance of voting at least nine times.

Top 25[edit]

2. Abraham Lincoln,
16th President of the United States (1861–65).
3. Martin Luther King, Jr., civil rights activist.
4. George Washington,
1st President of the United States (1789–97).
5. Benjamin Franklin,
author, inventor, statesman, and scientist.
6. George W. Bush
43rd President of the United States (2001–09), and sitting president when the poll was conducted.
7. Bill Clinton
42nd President of the United States (1993–2001).
8. Elvis Presley
singer, songwriter, actor, and musician.
9. Oprah Winfrey
talk show host, magazine publisher, and actress.
10. Franklin D. Roosevelt
32nd President of the United States (1933–45).
  1. Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) President of USA.
  2. Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) President of USA.
  3. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) Baptist minister and activist who was a leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement.
  4. George Washington (1732-1799) The First President of the United States.
  5. Benjamin Franklin (1705-1790) Founding Fathers of the United States. Franklin was a renowned polymath and a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat.
  6. George W. Bush (1946-) 43rd President of the United States from 2001 to 2009.
  7. Bill Clinton (1946-) 42nd President of the United States.
  8. Elvis Presley (1935-1977) American singer and actor. Regarded as one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century, he is often referred to as "the King of Rock and Roll", or simply, "the King".
  9. Oprah Winfrey (1954-) is an American media proprietor, talk show host, actress, producer, and philanthropist.[1] She is best known for her talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show, which was the highest-rated television program of its kind in history.
  10. Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) President of USA.
  11. Billy Graham (1918-) American evangelical Christian evangelist, ordained as a Southern Baptist minister, who rose to celebrity status in 1949 reaching a core constituency of middle-class, moderately conservative Protestants.
  12. Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American Founding Father who was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and later served as the third President of the United States from 1801 to 1809.
  13. Walt Disney (1901-1966) American entrepreneur, animator, voice actor and film producer.
  14. Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-born theoretical physicist. He developed the general theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics (alongside quantum mechanics).
  15. Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931) American inventor and businessman.
  16. John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) American politician who served as the 35th President of the United States from January 1961 until his assassination in November 1963.
  17. Bob Hope (1903-2003) English-American comedian, vaudevillian, actor, singer, dancer, athlete, and author. With a career spanning nearly 80 years, Hope appeared in over 70 feature films and short films, including a series of "Road" movies.
  18. Bill Gates (1955-) American business magnate, investor, author and philanthropist. In 1975, Gates and Paul Allen co-founded Microsoft, which became the world's largest PC software company.
  19. Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) American politician, diplomat, and activist. She was the longest-serving First Lady of the United States.
  20. Lance Armstrong (1971-) American former professional road racing cyclist.
  21. Muhammad Ali (1942-2016) American professional boxer and activist. He was widely regarded as one of the most significant and celebrated sports figures of the 20th century.
  22. Rosa Parks (1913-2003) American civil rights activist, whom the United States Congress called "the first lady of civil rights" and "the mother of the freedom movement".
  23. The Wright Brothers
  24. Henry Ford (1863-1947) American industrialist, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, and the sponsor of the development of the assembly line technique of mass production.
  25. Neil Armstrong (1930-2012) American astronaut and the first person to walk on the Moon.

Alphabetical list[edit]

On 18 April 2005, AOL and The Discovery Channel announced the top 100 nominees.

The remaining 75 nominees:

  • Maya Angelou (1928-2014) American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist.
  • Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) American social reformer and feminist activist who played a pivotal role in the women's suffrage movement.
  • Lucille Ball (1911-1989) American actress, comedienne, model, film-studio executive, and producer.
  • Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) Scottish-bornscientist, inventor, engineer and innovator who is credited with patenting the first practical telephone.
  • Barbara Bush (1925-) is the wife of George H. W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States, and served as First Lady of the United States from 1989 to 1993.
  • George H. W. Bush (1924-) American politician who was the 41st President of the United States from 1989 to 1993.
  • Laura Bush (1946-) the wife of the 43rd President of the United States, George W. Bush, and was the First Lady from 2001 to 2009
  • Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) was a Scottish American industrialist who led the enormous expansion of the American steel industry in the late 19th century.
  • Johnny Carson (1925-2005) was an American television talk show host and comedian, best known for his 30 years as host of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962–1992).
  • Jimmy Carter (1924-) is an American politician and author who served as the 39th President of the United States from 1977 to 1981.
  • George Washington Carver (1860-1940) was an American botanist and inventor.
  • Ray Charles (1930-2004) was an American singer, songwriter, musician, and composer.
  • César Chávez (1927-1993) was an American labor leader and civil rights activist who, with Dolores Huerta, co-founded the National Farm Workers Association (later the United Farm Workers union, UFW) in 1962.
  • Hillary Clinton (1947-) is an American politician who served as the First Lady of the United States from 1993 to 2001 and as the 67th United States Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013, and was the Democratic Party's nominee for President of the United States in the 2016 election.
  • Bill Cosby (1937-) is an American stand-up comedian, actor, and author.
  • Tom Cruise (1962-) is an American actor and producer.
  • Ellen DeGeneres (1958-) is an American comedian, television host, actress, writer, and producer.
  • Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) was an African-American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman.
  • Amelia Earhart (1897-1937) was an American aviation pioneer and author.
  • Clint Eastwood (1930-) is an American actor, filmmaker, musician, and political figure.
  • John Edwards (1953-) is a former American politician, who served as a U.S. Senator from North Carolina.
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) was an American politician and general who served as the 34th President of the United States from 1953 until 1961.
  • Brett Favre (1969-) is a former American football quarterback who spent the majority of his career with the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League (NFL).
  • Mel Gibson (1956-) is an American actor and filmmaker.
  • Rudolph Giuliani (1944-) is an American lawyer, businessman, public speaker, and former mayor of New York City.
  • John Glenn (1921-2016) (Col, USMC, Ret.), is a former aviator, engineer, astronaut, and United States senator.
  • Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804) was an American statesman and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.
  • Tom Hanks (1956-) is an American actor, comedian and filmmaker.
  • Hugh Hefner (1926-) is an American adult magazine publisher, businessman, and a well-known playboy.
  • Katharine Hepburn (1907-2003) was an American actress.
  • Howard Hughes (1905-1976) was an American entrepreneur, known during his life as one of the most financially successful individuals in the world.
  • Michael Jackson (1958-2009) was an American singer and philanthropist.
  • Steve Jobs (1956-2011) was an American businessman, inventor, and industrial designer.
  • Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1976) was an American politician who served as the 36th President of the United States from 1963 to 1969.
  • Michael Jordan (1963-) is an American retired professional basketball player.
  • Helen Keller (1880-1968) was an American author, political activist, and lecturer.
  • Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (1929-1994) was the wife of the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, and First Lady of the United States during his presidency from 1961 until his assassination in 1963.
  • Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968) commonly known by his initials RFK, was an American politician from Massachusetts.
  • Rush Limbaugh (1951-) is an American entertainer, radio talk show host, writer, and conservative political commentator.
  • Charles Lindbergh (1902-1974) was an American aviator, author, inventor, military officer, explorer, and social activist.
  • George Lucas (1944-) is an American filmmaker and entrepreneur.
  • Madonna (1958-) is an American singer, songwriter, actress, and businesswoman.
  • Malcolm X (1925-1965) born Malcolm Little and later also known as el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz[A](Arabic: الحاجّ مالك الشباز), was an African-American Muslim minister and human rights activist.
  • Dr. Phil (1950-) known as Dr. Phil, is an American television personality, author, psychologist, and the host of the television show Dr. Phil, which debuted in 2002.
  • Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962) was an American actress and model.
  • Michael Moore (1954-) is an American documentary filmmaker and author.
  • Audie Murphy (1925-1971) was one of the most decorated American combat soldiers of World War II, receiving every military combat award for valor available from the U.S. Army, as well as French and Belgian awards for heroism.
  • Richard M. Nixon' (1913-1994) was an American politician who served as the 37th President of the United States from 1969 until 1974, when he became the only U.S. president to resign from office.
  • Barack Obama' (1961-) is an American politician and the 44th and current President of the United States.
  • Jesse Owens' (1913-1980) was an American track and field athlete and four-time Olympic gold medalist in the 1936 games.
  • George S. Patton' (1885-1945) was a senior officer of the United States Army who commanded the U.S. Seventh Army in the Mediterranean and European theaters of World War II.
  • Colin Powell' (1937-) is an American statesman and a retired four-star general in the United States Army.
  • Christopher Reeve' (1952-2004) was an American actor, film director, producer, screenwriter, author, and activist. He achieved stardom for his acting achievements, in particular his motion picture portrayal of the comic book superhero Superman.
  • Condoleezza Rice' (1954-) is an American political scientist and diplomat.
  • Jackie Robinson' (1919-1972) was an American professional baseball second baseman who became the first African American to play in Major League Baseball (MLB) in the modern era.
  • Theodore Roosevelt' (1858-1919) was an American statesman, author, explorer, soldier, naturalist, and reformer who served as the 26th President of the United States from 1901 to 1909.
  • Babe Ruth' (1845-1948) was an American professional baseball player whose career in Major League Baseball (MLB) spanned 22 seasons, from 1914 through 1935.
  • Carl Sagan' (1934-1996) was an American astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, author, science popularizer, and science communicator in astronomy and other natural sciences.
  • Jonas Salk' (1914-1995) was an American medical researcher and virologist. He discovered and developed one of the first successful polio vaccines.
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger' (1947-) is an Austrian-American actor, producer, businessman, investor, author, philanthropist, activist, and former professional bodybuilder and politician.
  • Frank Sinatra' (1915-1998) was an American singer, actor, and producer who was one of the most popular and influential musical artists of the 20th century.
  • Joseph Smith, Jr.' (1805-1844) was an American religious leader and founder of Mormonism and the Latter Day Saint movement. When he was twenty-four, Smith published the Book of Mormon.
  • Steven Spielberg
  • James Stewart
  • Martha Stewart
  • Nikola Tesla
  • Pat Tillman
  • Harry Truman
  • Donald Trump
  • Harriet Tubman
  • Mark Twain
  • Sam Walton
  • John Wayne
  • Tiger Woods
  • Chuck Yeager


External links[edit]