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100 Most Influential People of All-Time (100-91)

Influence, a subtle force shaping minds and decisions, radiates from words spoken, actions taken. It transforms perspectives, inspires change, and weaves connections that endure the passage of time.

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In the annals of history, certain individuals have left a mark on the world, shaping the course of humanity. The list of the 100 most influential people goes beyond time and uses a diverse array of figures, from political leaders to scientists, artists, and cultural icons.

Each person on this roster has, in their own unique way, impacted human civilization. This list serves as an argument to the legacy of those whose contributions have echoed across generations.

This list offers a SUBJECTIVE ranking of individuals based on influence through politics, science, arts, and culture. Assessing influence is INHERENTLY SUBJECTIVE, involving varied criteria and perspectives. Readers can approach this list critically, acknowledging the challenge of quantifying influence across diverse networks. It serves to provoke discussion on lasting impact and the changing nature of global context.

Without any further ado, here are our first 10 picks (with an honorable mention) of the 100 most influential people of all-time.

100. Aaliyah (1979-2001) – Singer/Actress

Youtube/One In a Million

Our First entrant needs no introduction. Aaliyah Dana Haughton, simply known as Aaliyah, remains influential for her groundbreaking contributions to music, fashion, and popular culture. As a pioneering R&B singer, she seamlessly fused genres, introducing a fresh sound that transcended traditional boundaries. Aaliyah’s smooth vocals, combined with innovative production, set a new standard in the music industry. Beyond her musical prowess, she left an indelible mark on fashion, popularizing a unique tomboyish style that challenged norms.

Aaliyah’s impact extends to film, where her roles showcased her versatility as both a singer and actress. Despite her tragically short life, Aaliyah’s influence endures; she continues to inspire new generations of artists, and her legacy remains a testament to her enduring contribution to the evolution of contemporary R&B and pop culture.

Tragically, Aaliyah died in a plane crash on August 25, 2001, in the Bahamas. The small aircraft, overloaded with passengers and cargo, crashed shortly after takeoff, claiming her life at the age of 22.

99. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson – Wrestler/Actor

Although he started of as a wrestler, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s influence extends to Hollywood stardom. As a charismatic talker, he captivated audiences with his larger-than-life persona. Transitioning to acting, his powerful screen presence made him a sought-after leading man in blockbuster films. What sets The Rock apart is his genuine and relatable personality, evident in his social media engagement. Fans are drawn to his authenticity, motivational messages, and commitment to hard work.

From wrestling’s iconic figure to an actor and social media personality, The Rock’s journey signals the pursuit of dreams through resilience and positivity. His impact resonates, not only for his entertainment prowess but as a symbol of determination and approachability, making him a widely admired and influential figure across diverse audiences.

Youtube/Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

98. Dr. Davis W. Houck – Scholar/Educator

Florida State University was once the home of the late great Coach Bobby Bowden. It is the current stomping grounds of what some might call him THE BEST FSU HAS TO OFFER. Davis W. Houck is a professor, scholar, and author who has become an ally and advocate for Civil Rights.

Davis W. Houck has made significant contributions to the understanding of civil rights through his impactful scholarship. His work, characterized by meticulous research and insightful analysis, delves into the role of rhetoric in shaping the civil rights narrative.

Dr. Houck (Left) in FSU Archives/Sun-Sentinel

Houck explores pivotal moments, such as the Emmett Till case and the actions of Bull Connor, unraveling the complexities of communication in the struggle for equality. Through his lens, he unveils the power of words and images in influencing public opinion and catalyzing social change.

When it comes to dedication, Houck’s commitment to preserving the historical memory of civil rights movements resonates in his body of work, making him a respected authority in the field of communication and civil rights history.

97. Leonard Chess (1917-1969) – Music Producer

Lenord Chess, (Leonard Chess), is immortalized due to being a co-founder Chess Records, a record label that played a vital role in the development of blues and rock ‘n’ roll music.

Chess Records introduced legendary artists like Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Little Walter and Etta James (more on ALL of them later) to the world. Leonard Chess’s keen eye for talent and his support for African American musicians in a racially segregated era contributed to the cultural and musical landscape.

Leonard Chess/Youtube

His record label became a hub for groundbreaking artists, shaping the sound of American music. The impact of Chess Records, under Lenord Chess’s watch, has made waves through the history of music, making him a key figure in the evolution of blues and rock genres.

Leonard Chess passed away on October 16, 1969, from a heart attack. Although his list of accolades is short, he was posthumously enshrined into the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

96. Chadwick Boseman (1976-2020) – Actor

Chadwick Boseman, a literal hero in the cinematic world, etched a legacy that transcends the confines of a Hollywood script. Renowned for his transformative portrayals of Black icons, Boseman’s impact extended far beyond the characters he embodied.

As the regal T’Challa in “Black Panther,” he not only redefined the superhero archetype but ignited a global cultural phenomenon, challenging industry norms and inspiring generations. His commitment to authentic storytelling and the exploration of African narratives shifted paradigms in an industry historically devoid of diverse representation.

Youtube/Howard University 150th Commencement

Boseman’s portrayal of James Brown in “Get On Up” and Jackie Robinson in “42” revealed his chameleon-like ability to inhabit the essence of iconic figures. As James Brown, Boseman’s electrifying performance captured the Godfather of Soul’s charisma, stage presence, and the complexities of his life. His embodiment of Brown went beyond mimicry, delving into the emotional and cultural nuances of the music legend.

Also, “42,” Boseman’s portrayal of Jackie Robinson was marked by a quiet yet powerful dignity. He brought to life Robinson’s historic journey in breaking baseball’s color barrier. Boseman’s transformative performances solidified his status as a consummate actor with an unparalleled ability to breathe life into the stories of cultural icons.

We tragically lost our beloved hero on August 28, 2020 as a result of colon cancer. Despite facing his own health challenges, Boseman continued to inspire many with his talent and dedication to the craft.

95. “Nature Boy” Ric Flair – Wrestler

Before Offset dropped the song in his name, Ric Flair IS professional wrestling. Ric Flair, the iconic professional superstar, exudes an influence that passes the ring. His cocky “rich-boy” persona, characterized by opulent robes, charismatic promos, and the iconic “Woo!” catchphrase, has become synonymous with the sport. As a 16-time world champion, Flair’s in-ring prowess and storytelling abilities set a standard for excellence. Beyond the scripted rivalries, his genuine passion and dedication to the craft have earned him respect as a wrestling icon.

Flair’s influence extends to pop culture, with appearances in music, and television, and a lasting impact on the larger-than-life persona associated. The “Nature Boy” shaped wrestling and influenced later generations. His legacy continues through those has has inspired. Triple H, Shawn Michaels, and of course, Ric’s daughter Charlotte Flair, have all cited Ric Flair as their influence.

Youtube/Ric Flair Drip by Offset

94. Berry Gordy

Berry Gordy, the visionary behind Motown Records, stands as a towering figure whose influence reverberates across the landscape of popular music. In the 1960s, Gordy transformed the music industry by creating Motown, a label that became synonymous with soulful melodies and timeless hits. not only produced chart-topping songs but also broke racial barriers, showcasing African-American talent in a racially divided era.

Motown Records left a mark on music, breaking racial barriers and defining the sound of a generation. Gordy’s innovative approach to artist development, songwriting, and production set new standards for the industry. Gordy’s impact is a testament to his entrepreneurial spirit, cultural influence, and his role in shaping the Motown sound, which continues to resonate and inspire generations of artists worldwide. His impact extends beyond music, showcasing the entrepreneurial spirit and cultural influence, shaping Motown’s sound, and resonating and inspiring artists worldwide.

Berry Gordy/Youtube

93. Matt Groening – Creator/TV Producer

In 1989, a certain animated family with yellow skin went from a sketch comedy show to primetime television. 34 years later, that family has become a part of television lore, and the creator has become an icon.

Matt Groening, creator of “The Simpsons,” revolutionized animation, crafting a satirical masterpiece that satirizes societal norms with humor and wit. Groening’s groundbreaking work paved the way for adult-oriented animated shows, questioning traditional TV boundaries.

“The Simpsons” became a cultural phenomenon, tackling social issues while entertaining millions globally, earning Groening acclaim as an astute cultural commentator.

His influence expanded with “Futurama,” displaying his versatility in animated storytelling. Groening’s impact extends beyond TV, shaping pop culture with characters that transcend entertainment, becoming ingrained in society’s collective consciousness. The Simpsons, a testament to his creativity, longevity, and ability to mirror and influence societal shifts, stands as an animated legacy.

Groening’s innovative approach to storytelling and humor reshaped television, leaving an enduring mark on the medium and inspiring a new era of animated content creators.

Youtube/The Simpsons Theory

92. Robin Harris (1953-1990) Actor/Comedian

The world of stand-up comedy has been a tradition that has evolved through many different climates of the world. Robin Harris, a comedic trailblazer, left his mark of unique humor, paving the way for a new era of stand-up comedy. Harris’s sharp wit and observational comedy resonated with audiences, earning him acclaim as a master storyteller. His iconic routine, “Bébé’s Kids,” showcased his ability to capture everyday scenarios with comedic brilliance, becoming a cultural touchstone.

Harris’s influence extends to subsequent generations of comedians, who draw inspiration from his style and impact on the comedy landscape. His untimely death in 1990 left a void, but his legacy endures through the laughter he ignited and the doors he opened for comedians of color in the entertainment industry.

Tragically, Harris passed away on March 18, 1990, at the age of 36. The cause of his death was a heart attack. Harris had a history of heart-related issues, and the heart attack was a result of complications related to these health issues.

Youtube/Robin Harris

Honorable Mention – Billie Eilish

Billie Eilish, a musical prodigy, has redefined pop music with her genre-blending sound, introspective lyrics, and unapologetic authenticity. At a young age, she amassed critical acclaim and a massive global following. Eilish’s influence lies in her ability to break traditional music norms, addressing mental health, body image, and societal expectations, resonating with a generation seeking honesty. Her impact extends beyond music, challenging industry standards and inspiring a new era of artists unafraid to embrace individuality.

91. Tom Hanks – Actor

Tom Hanks, an enduring cinematic icon, has captivated audiences with his versatile performances, embodying relatable characters that transcend generations.

Known for his range, Hanks seamlessly transitions between genres, delivering performances that evoke empathy and authenticity. His career is a tapestry of acclaimed roles, from comedic triumphs in “Forrest Gump” to dramatic brilliance in “Philadelphia.”

Youtube/The Graham Norton Show

Beyond his acting prowess, Hanks’s likability and genuine persona have made him a beloved figure, a rare constant in Hollywood. Hanks’s influence extends to the industry’s ethos, shaping the perception of a true gentleman and professional.

He is a two-time Academy Award winner, and his films, from “Saving Private Ryan” to “Toy Story,” resonate globally. Hanks’s philanthropy work, including supporting veterans and space exploration, showcases his commitment to making a positive impact. His enduring legacy rests not just on his artistic contributions but on his embodiment of decency and excellence in Hollywood.

See how hip-hop bounced to New Orleans here.

Written By

Shane Kidd-Walker is a Graduate Film Student at Florida State University. He is also an alumnus of Hinds Community College and THE Alcorn State University.

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