President Barack Obama is to award the US's highest civilian honour to billionaire investor Warren Buffet.
Also named for the Presidential Medal of Freedom were German Chancellor Angela Merkel, former President George Bush Sr, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and others.
The White House cited the honourees' contributions to US interests, to culture and to world peace.
The 15 recipients will be presented with their awards at the White House next year.
In a statement on Wednesday, the White House said the following would receive the medal:
- Democratic Congressman John Lewis, a veteran civil rights leader and one-time associate of Martin Luther King;
- Environmental activist and lawyer John Adams;
- Artist Jasper Johns;
- Holocaust survivor Gerda Weissmann Klein;
- Dr Tom Little (posthumously), who was executed by the Taliban in August while on an aid mission;
- Civil rights activist Sylvia Mendez;
- Baseball great Stan Musial;
- Bill Russell, the first black coach in the US National Basketball Association;
- Former ambassador to Ireland Jean Kennedy Smith, sister to late President John Kennedy;
- Longtime labour leader John Sweeney.
Those given the award by former President George Bush included former CIA Director George Tenet, L Paul Bremer, the top civil administrator in Iraq in charge of the early Iraq reconstruction; Nelson Mandela and legendary boxer Muhammad Ali.