James Leroy Wilson's blog

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Greatest Americans?

The Discovery Channel captured the wave of the world and came up with polls nominating the greatest Americans, and
Ronald Reagan came on top.

These lists are always controversial. Most of that we take for granted - and which were truly American - such as sodapop drinks and hamburger buns - were invented by individuals who are not household names. And a lot of other great things, like Edison's light bulb, were invented via teamwork, not individual genius alone.

The main problem with such lists is that they overrate politicians and current celebrities, to the detriment of the true scientific and cultural geniuses. How Britain could rate Churchill over Shakespeare and Newton is beyond me.

Here are some names that, if not deserving to have been in the Top 100, certainly deserve to be ahead of a bunch who actually did get in:

Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, PT Barnum, John Adams, John Q. Adams, Hank Aaron, Jim Brown, Chuck Berry, Marlon Brando, Walter Camp, Johnny Cash, Fanny Crosby, Francis Coppola, Aaron Copeland, William Clark (Lewis and Clark), Duke Ellington, Bob Dylan, Cecil B. Demille, George Gershwin, Lou Gehrig, Barry Goldwater, Aretha Franklin, John Ford, Woody Guthrie, Jim Henson, Oscar Hammerstein II, Catherine Hepburn, BB King, Lerner & Lowe, Robert E. Lee, Billy Jean King, Merriwether Lewis (Lewis & Clark), Vince Lombardi, James Madison, James Monroe, Bill Monroe, Gresham Machen, Jack Nicklaus, Jack Nicholson, Pete Rozelle, Knute Rockne, Richard Rogers, Sidney Poitier, Charles M. Shultz, Gene Roddenberry, Paul Simon, Neil Simon, John Steinbeck, Jim Thorpe, Frank Lloyd Wright, Brian Wilson, John Updike, Hank Williams, Stevie Wonder


  1. You forgot to mention George Halas, Walter Payton and Mike Ditka. You must be a packer fan.

  2. I'll take Lombardi off the list and replace with Charles S. Peirce, the greatest philosopher and mind America produced. I didn't think of him last night, probably because I'm NOT one of the greatest minds ever produced.

    I deliberately left out Henry George, Benjamin Tucker, and Murray Rothbard because their ideas and contributions are not yet a part of the culture.

    I watched a portion of American Masters on PBS tonight and am getting pretty angry about Louis Armstrong not being among the Top 100. And I'm not even much of a jazz fan.