Experts

Barbara Perry

Fast Facts

  • Gerald L. Baliles Professor and Director of Presidential Studies 
  • Former Judicial Fellow at the U.S. Supreme Court
  • Researcher for Chief Justice William Rehnquist
  • Expertise on Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Mitch McConnell, John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy, Edward KennedyRose Kennedy, Franklin Roosevelt, First Ladies

Areas Of Expertise

  • Domestic Affairs
  • Law and Justice
  • Social Issues
  • Elections
  • Founding and Shaping of the Nation
  • Leadership
  • Political Parties and Movements
  • Politics
  • The Presidency
  • Supreme Court

Barbara A. Perry is the Gerald L. Baliles Professor and Director of Presidential Studies at the University of Virginia's Miller Center, where she co-directs the Presidential Oral History Program. She has authored or edited 14 books on presidents, First Ladies, the Kennedy family, the Supreme Court, and civil rights and civil liberties. Professor Perry has conducted more than 100 interviews for the George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama Presidential Oral History Projects and she directs the Edward Kennedy Oral History Project. She served as a U.S. Supreme Court fellow and has worked for both Republican and Democratic members of the Senate.

Her books include 42: Inside the Presidency of Bill Clinton (edited with Michael Nelson and Russell Riley); 41: Inside the Presidency of George H.W. Bush (edited with Michael Nelson); Rose Kennedy: The Life and Times of a Political Matriarch; Jacqueline Kennedy: First Lady of the New Frontier; Edward Kennedy: An Oral History, and The Priestly Tribe: The Supreme Court's Image in the American Mind.

A native of Louisville, Kentucky, Professor Perry earned a PhD in government from the University of Virginia; an MA degree in politics, philosophy, and economics from Oxford University; and a BA degree in political science, with highest honors, from the University of Louisville.

Professor Perry is a frequent media commentator for national and international news sources. She is prepared to discuss American presidents, especially FDR through Obama, with particular expertise on JFK and the Kennedy family. Professor Perry has taught all aspects of American government/politics and can respond to media questions on most topics related to presidential campaigns and elections, public policy, and presidential communications. In addition to the American presidency (including First Ladies), her research, writing, and commentary have covered the U.S. Supreme Court, particularly presidential appointments, as well as civil rights and civil liberties. 

Professor Perry has been a commentator for such outlets as CBS, PBS, CNN, C-SPAN, MSNBC, NPR, PRI, Fox News, BBC, Canadian Broadcasting Corp., Swiss TV, HuffPost LiveThe Morning RundownThe Andrea Mitchell ReportThe NewsHour1A, The Diane Rehm Show, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Sunday Times of London, USA TodayBloomberg NewsPOLITICO, the Daily Beast, and the Associated Press. She regularly contributes to UVA’s blog, Thoughts from the Lawn.

Previously, Professor Perry was the Carter Glass Professor of Government and founding director of the Center for Civic Renewal at Sweet Briar College in Virginia. In 1994-95, she received the Justice Tom C. Clark Award as the outstanding Supreme Court Fellow that year. In addition to providing research for Chief Justice William Rehnquist’s speeches, she briefed more than 3,000 visitors to the court from 70 different countries. She was the Senior Fellow for Civics Education at the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center in 2006-07, where she is currently a Non-Resident Fellow. From 1996 through 2008, she taught in the Supreme Court Summer Institute, co-sponsored by the Supreme Court Historical Society and Street Law. In 2012, Perry received the Virginia Social Science Association’s Scholar Award in Political Science. The Sons of the American Revolution, Virginia Society, awarded her their 2013 Silver Good Citizenship Medal for “her outstanding achievements in the study, writing, and teaching of American history.” The University of Louisville’s College of Arts and Sciences named her the 2014 Alumna Fellow of the Year.

Professor Perry has participated in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Information Programs and lectures for the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, for which she taught a 2015 online graduate course on the Kennedy presidency and offers a teacher institute on JFK. From 2010-14, she served as an adjunct faculty member at the Federal Executive Institute in Charlottesville, providing seminars to senior federal executives on the Kennedy presidency, the U.S. Supreme Court, and leadership.

Barbara Perry News Feed

"The role of the vice-president was, frankly, to just be that heartbeat away from the president," said Barbara Perry, the director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia's Miller Centre. Unless the president died, or was seriously ill, the vice-president's job was largely to sit around and wait. For some vice-presidents, the dynamic meant holding a job you hoped would never be needed. "One of the vice-presidents in the early 20th Century said, 'Every day I ring the doorbell at the White House and hope the president will answer,'" Ms Perry said.
Barbara Perry BBC
President Joe Biden signs 17 executive orders in his first hours in office. We dig into what they say, where Biden might succeed and what policies will meet resistance. Barbara Perry is interviewed.
Barbara Perry WBUR
CGTN's Asieh Namdar and Barbara Perry, a Professor and Director of Presidential Studies at the University of Virginia, discuss U.S. President Donald Trump's last day in office.
Barbara Perry CGTN
The scaled-down Inauguration Day events represent a loss of what some scholars call "a civil religion" that binds people together, says Barbara Perry, director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia's Miller Center. "When we don't have the serious parts of our [civil religion], the celebratory parts of that, it's like losing one's religion and ceremonies all at the same time," she says.
Barbara Perry NPR
Barbara Perry is interviewed on NBC News Now.
Barbara Perry NBC News Now
Yet, thanks to Trump, many of the inaugural traditions that are key to reinforcing U.S. democratic norms will be absent, said Barbara Perry, director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. Trump “already destroyed that by -- almost two weeks ago now -- fomenting the insurrection against the Capitol,” Perry said. Biden’s administration must now “seize back our constitutional system, seize back our democratic republic, seize back as many of the traditions as they can.”
Barbara Perry Bloomberg