Willie Stark Governor of one of the southern states (most critics assume that it is Louisiana); the son of a dirt farmer in the rural northern part of the state, he challenges the entrenched interests from the southern part of the state and wins, making many enemies in the process of changing the benefits provided by the state government.
Lucy Stark Wife of Willie Stark; a former school teacher who married Willie while he was County Treasurer in Mason County, she becomes estranged from him while he is governor, although she does pose for photographs with him occasionally.
Tom Stark The governor's son; he is a potential All-American football player until an injury crushes his spinal cord; he also provokes one of the most severe threats to his father's position because of his sexual activities.
Jack Burden A trouble-shooter for Governor Stark; the product of the state's political aristocracy and a former Ph.D. student in history, he does research on the Boss' political enemies in an attempt to discover their illegal activities, and he carries out various other tasks.
Sugar-Boy O'Sheean Willie Stark's bodyguard and driver; he is devoted to the Boss and would do anything for him.
Sadie Burke Willie Stark's secretary and long-time mistress; she first met Willie when she kept tabs on him during his first campaign for governor, when she was a "pigeon" for the Harrison gang, but she stays with him after he denounces Harrison and campaigns for MacMurfee, as well as during his subsequent campaigns for governor.
Tiny Duffy Lieutenant-Governor during Willie Stark's last term in office; he a political hack who is treated badly by Willie Stark, but it is he who gives Adam Stanton the information that causes him to assassinate Willie Stark.
Malaciah Wynn A constituent of Willie's from Mason County; Willie arranges for good attorney to represent Malaciah's son on a murder charge.
Slade The owner of a speak-easy during the Depression; because he supported Willie's refusal to drink a beer when Willie did not want one, Slade received one of the first liquor licenses and one of the finest business locations after Prohibition was repealed.
Judge Montague Irwin A former Attorney General who supports one of Willie's political opponents for the Senate nomination; he allowed himself to be bribed once, in 1913 or 1914, to save his home and plantation; he is Jack Burden's actual father, although Jack does not learn this until after the Judge has committed suicide.
Sam MacMurfee The head of one of the factions in the state Democratic party; he was governor just before Willie Stark, and he continues to battle Willie Stark in every way he can.
Dolph Pillsbury The chairman of the County Commissioners in Mason County when Willie Stark was County Treasurer; because of Pillsbury's insistence, J. H. Moore gets the contract to build the schoolhouse, which turns out to be built with faulty bricks; this indirectly initiates Willie Stark's rise to political power.
Joe Harrison The governor of the state when Willie Stark is County Treasurer; his decision to back Willie as a dummy candidate in order to split the MacMurfee vote backfires, leading to his defeat by MacMurfee and his later eclipse as a political force after Willie becomes governor.
Hugh Miller Willie Stark's first Attorney General; he resigns when Willie decides to protect Bryam B. White from impeachment, but Jack Burden indicates that Miller might enter politics again at the end of the book.
Governor Joel Stanton Governor of the state in about 1915; he protected Judge Irwin when charges were leveled against him; he died in the early 1920s, but his spirit has an effect on several of the characters in the novel.
Adam Stanton Son of Governor Stanton and a first-rate doctor; he is the same age as Jack Burden and a childhood friend; he decides to become director of the medical facility which Willie Stark is building; when Adam learns that his father — whom he had venerated — protected Judge Irwin, he kills Willie Stark, overwrought because all his ideals have crumbled and because his sister has become Willie's mistress.
Anne Stanton Sister of Adam Stanton, daughter of Governor Stanton, and mistress of Willie Stark; four years younger than Jack Burden, she is the girl whom Jack first fell in love with; they finally marry after Willie Stark's death.
Jack's Mother A woman from the pine hills of Arkansas; she has been married four times, but never to the man whom she really cares for, Monty Irwin; until the end of the book, Jack cannot make up his mind about how he feels toward her.
Ellis Burden The "Scholarly Attorney," the man whom Jack Burden thought was his father; Ellis brought Jack's mother from Arkansas to Burden's Landing, but when he discovered that she and his best friend had had an affair, he left her and went to help the unfortunates in the Skid Row section of the capital.
Theodore Murrell The Young Executive, the most recent of the husbands whom Jack's mother has had.
Bryam B. White One of the men involved in a scandal during Willie Stark's first term as governor; Willie's decision to protect White leads to impeachment proceedings against Willie and to strained relations between Willie and Lucy Stark, but their subsequent battle confirms Willie Stark's political clout.
Mabel Carruthers Judge Irwin's second wife; she was thought to have been rich enough to ease the Judge's financial problems in 1913 and 1914, but, in truth, she had no money at all.
Mortimer L. Littlepaugh Counsel for the American Electric Power Company who had been pushed aside to reward Judge Irwin for dismissing a case against the Southern Belle Fuel Company; after trying unsuccessfully to get Governor Stanton to investigate Irwin's conduct, Littlepaugh committed suicide.
Miss Littlepaugh The sister of Mortimer L. Littlepaugh; she makes her living as a medium, and she gives Jack Burden a letter from her brother that seals his case against Judge Irwin.
Lois Seager The beautiful, well-to-do woman to whom Jack Burden was married for a time after he quit working on his Ph.D., but before he began working for Willie Stark; he walked out on her when he began to think of her as a person rather than as merely a beautiful sexual nonentity.
Gummy Larson A major supporter of Sam MacMurfee; he is given the general contract for the hospital which Willie Stark is having built in order to seriously weaken MacMurfee's threat to Willie's senatorial ambitions.
Hubert Coffee A political hack who works for Gummy Larson and Sam MacMurfee; he tries to bribe Adam Stanton into giving the general contract for the hospital to Larson.
Sibyl Frey One of the girls with whom Tom Stark has a sexual relationship; she becomes pregnant, and after the child is born, she allows Lucy Stark to adopt the child.
Marvin Frey Sibyl's father; he is used by MacMurfee in an attempt to weaken Willie's political power and to gain a Senate seat.
Willie Stark The child whom Sibyl Frey gives birth to and who is adopted by Lucy Stark in the belief that it is her son's child and her grandchild.
Lavinia Mastern Jack Burden's grandmother.
Cass Mastern The brother of Lavinia Mastern; as a college student, he had an affair with a married woman that led to her husband's suicide; his papers came to Jack Burden, and Jack tried to use them as the basis for his Ph.D. dissertation in American History, but he could not understand Cass Mastern's motivations.
Gilbert Mastern The older brother of Lavinia and Cass Mastern; he earned a fortune and rescued his brother and sister from poverty after their parents died; he had political plans for his brother until his brother became an abolitionist after the death of Duncan Trice.
Duncan Trice A young banker in Lexington, Kentucky; he befriends Cass Mastern when Cass comes to Lexington to go to school, and he introduces Cass to the pleasures of drinking and gambling; when Trice discovers that Cass is having an affair with his wife, he commits suicide.
Annabelle Trice The woman with whom Cass Mastern has an affair; she becomes guilt-ridden after her husband's death, and she sells the slave who found the hidden wedding ring that made it clear that Duncan's death was suicide; this act causes Cass Mastern to leave her and to become an abolitionist.