The last month of a presidential administration always brings with it a flurry of pardon requests and a couple dozen pardons, a handful of which always leave people shaking their heads. George H.W. Bush's pardon of individuals involved in the Iran-Contra scandal and Bill Clinton's pardon of tax cheat Marc Rich are a few modern examples of notable pardons.
On December 23, George W. Bush gave 19 people an early Christmas present by pardoning or commuting a sentence (one of which was rescinded upon further information being delivered to the White House and made public in the media). Expect more pardons and commutations to come.
CNN has an interesting story about 11 past pardons throughout American history that are notable in one way or the other. Among the 11 are one president, one folk singer, and two icons of NASCAR.