Reading the best presidential biographies has motivated me to (eventually) read the best biographies of the most compelling people who have advised, challenged or otherwise influenced our 45 presidents. From Alexander Hamilton to Madeleine Albright, a wide cast of men and women have proven as historically relevant and irresistible as the presidents themselves.

This list was updated February 12, 2017 (updates/additions are in bold). It will evolve over time, particularly with your suggestions. Links to popular biographies are provided, but I have not finalized what I will eventually read.

Washington Alexander Hamilton Co-author of The Federalist Papers, 1st Secretary of the Treasury
Benjamin Franklin Author, statesman, inventor, scientist, diplomat known as “The First American”
Marquis de Lafayette French military officer, fought in the American Revolution
Pierre Charles L’Enfant Architect & civil engineer, designed layout of Washington, D.C.
John Jay Pres. of Continental Congress, 1st Chief Justice of Supreme Court, negotiated Treaty of Paris
John Hancock Statesman, merchant, politician
Henry Knox Military officer, 1st Secretary of War
Robert Morris Businessman, helped finance American Revolution
Benedict Arnold Military officer, traitor during the American Revolution
Patrick Henry Politician, Revolutionary leader
Adams John Marshall Chief Justice of Supreme Court
Napoleon French military and political leader
Samuel Adams Revolutionary leader, statesman; cousin to John Adams
Jefferson Meriwether Lewis & William Clark American explorers
Aaron Burr Military officer, VP, involved in Burr-Hamilton duel and the “Burr conspiracy
Albert Gallatin Secretary of the Treasury, known as America’s “Swiss Founding Father”
Sally Hemmings Slave, Jefferson alleged to have been the father of one or more children with Hemmings
Madison Henry Clay Speaker of the House, Senator, Secretary of State, presidential hopeful
Dolley Madison First Lady
Monroe John C. Calhoun Secretary of State, Secretary of War, US Senator, Vice President
Thomas Paine Political philosopher and activist, pamphleteer, wrote Common Sense
JQ Adams James Smithson British scientist, founding donor of Smithsonian Institution
Jackson Alexis de Tocqueville French diplomat and historian, author of Democracy in America
Sam Houston American politician and soldier, secured Texan independence from Mexico
David Crockett Frontiersman, politician and soldier
Van Buren Thurlow Weed New York Whig “Party Boss” and newspaper publisher
Wm Henry Harrison Daniel Webster Secretary of State, politician, lawyer
Tecumseh Shawnee tribe leader
Tyler [to come] [to come]
Polk Thomas Hart Benton Politician, advocate of westward expansion
Taylor Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna Mexican politician & general, defeated by Taylor at Battle of Buena Vista
Fillmore John Frémont Military officer, explorer, politician
Pierce Jefferson Davis Politician, Secretary of War, President of the Confederate States of America
Stephen A. Douglas Politician, chief sponsor of Kansas-Nebraska Act, Lincoln-Douglas debates
Buchanan Simon Cameron U.S. Senator, Secretary of War
Edwin Stanton Lawyer, Attorney General, Secretary of War
Lincoln William Tecumseh Sherman Union Army General
Robert E. Lee Confederate Army General
William Seward Secretary of State, politician
Salmon P. Chase Chief Justice, Secretary of the Treasury, politician
George McClellan Politician, Union Army General
Frederick Douglass Abolitionist, statesman, former slave
Horace Greeley Newspaper editor, politician, presidential aspirant
John Hay Private secretary to Lincoln, Secretary of State
John Nicolay Private secretary to Lincoln, biographer
John Wilkes Booth Stage actor, assassinated Lincoln
Johnson [to come] [to come]
Grant George Custer Army officer, cavalry commander
Jay Gould Railroad magnate
Hayes Thomas Edison “America’s Greatest Inventor”
Garfield James Blaine Politician; Secretary of States, presidential aspirant
Alexander Graham Bell Scientist, inventor
Robert Todd Lincoln Diplomat, Secretary of War, son of Abraham Lincoln
Arthur Roscoe Conkling Politician, “Stalwart” faction boss
Cleveland Eugene Debs Union leader, presidential aspirant
Henry Ward Beecher Clergyman, abolitionist
Benjamin Harrison Andrew Carnegie Steel magnate
McKinley William Jennings Bryan Politician, Secretary of State, presidential aspirant
William Randolph Hearst Newspaper publisher
Theodore Roosevelt Henry Cabot Lodge Politician
J.P. Morgan Financier, banking magnate
Oliver Wendell Holmes Associate Justice, Army officer
Thomas Platt New York political “boss”
Gifford Pinchot Forester, politician
Upton Sinclair Author, political activist
Jacob Riis Social reformer, “muckraker” journalist
Taft Henry Stimson Secretary of War, Secretary of State, lawyer
Booker T. Washington Educator, advisor, former slave
Wilson Colonel House Adviser to Wilson
John J. Pershing General
Louis Brandeis Associate Justice, adviser to Wilson
Edith Wilson First Lady, 2nd wife of Woodrow Wilson
Walter Lippmann Journalist, political commentator, adviser to Wilson
Harding Andrew Mellon Banker, industrialist, Secretary of the Treasury
John L. Lewis President of United Mine Workers
Coolidge Samuel Gompers Labor union leader, Founder of AFL
Hoover Alfred Smith Politician, presidential aspirant
Franklin Roosevelt Eleanor Roosevelt First Lady, social activist
Winston Churchill British Prime Minister
Josef Stalin Leader of the Soviet Union
Adolf Hitler Leader of Nazi Germany
Douglas MacArthur General
Frances Perkins Secretary of Labor, 1st female cabinet member
Harry Hopkins Adviser to FDR, New Deal architect
Louis Howe Adviser to FDR (and Eleanor)
Huey Long Politician; presidential aspirant
Robert Oppenheimer Physicist, “Father of the Atomic Bomb”
Truman George Marshall General, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, Marshall Plan
Dean Acheson Secretary of State, architect of NATO
Joseph McCarthy Senator, anti-Communist zealot
Eisenhower Fox Conner General
George Patton General
Bernard Montgomery Senior British Army officer
Martin Luther King Jr. Civil rights leader, minister
Earl Warren Chief Justice, politician
Rosa Parks Civil rights activist
Albert Einstein Physicist
Khrushchev Leader of the Soviet Union
Wernher von Braun Aerospace engineer / rocket scientist