It began as an afterthought. It evolved into a journalistic tradition. Today it's an American institution with global resonance. TIME's selection of the Person of the Year highlights the powerful personalities who shape our world in ways both creative and destructive. Starting in 1927--when the editors invented the concept to make up for not running a cover story on Charles Lindbergh after his transatlantic flight--the choices have formed a fascinating reflection of history in the making. The public has joined in the process, passionately suggesting candidates and just as passionately debating the selections. Now people can experience the entire POY heritage through a multimedia exhibition, "TIME's Person of the Year at 75," which will open in New York City in the spring and tour eight other U.S. cities over the next two years. Turn to the following pages for a sampling of the absorbing, inspiring and provocative figures featured in the exhibition.
1927 CHARLES LINDBERGH
Lindbergh was just 25, with a mere five years of flying behind him, when in May 1927 he became the first pilot to complete a nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic. The audacious feat made him a national hero--the recipient of euphoric parades, a Congressional Medal of Honor and a posting as a roving ambassador of goodwill. TIME called him "the most cherished citizen since Theodore Roosevelt." He completed his annus mirabilis by meeting Anne Morrow, whom he would marry in 1929. They would seek privacy, especially after their son was notoriously kidnapped and murdered in 1932, but both would remain lifelong celebrities--she as an author, he as a continuing aviation pioneer, an inventor who contributed to the artificial heart, an airline consultant and an advocate of sometimes controversial political views.
1930 MOHANDAS GANDHI
"Curiously, it was in a jail that the year's end found the little half-naked brown man whose 1930 mark on world history will undoubtedly loom largest of all." Thus TIME described Mohandas Gandhi, in prison for mobilizing Indians against the British raj. A believer in "passive resistance" who had a steely will, a monklike ascetic who was a London-trained lawyer and a sophisticated politician, Gandhi gave Indians a proud identity and sense of nationhood. Many venerated him as a mahatma (great soul). His protests in 1930 presaged the moment in 1947 when Britain would grant India independence and Gandhi would achieve worldwide status as a moral icon. His example lives on in nonviolent activists of our day such as Lech Walesa and Nelson Mandela.
1932 FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT
Roosevelt was named Person of the Year three times. The first designation was not so much for any accomplishments as for the hope he inspired as the new President of a Depression-ridden nation--and for his determination and courage in overcoming the effects of polio. His subsequent selections, though, more than ratified his initial distinction. In 1934 he was cited for showing the U.S. the way out of "a deep, dark economic hole." And in 1941, during the daunting, early days of World War II, TIME selected F.D.R. because "the country he leads stands for the hopes of the world."
1936 WALLIS SIMPSON