Experts

Barbara A. 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 16 books on presidents, First Ladies, the Kennedy family, the Supreme Court, and civil rights and civil liberties. Perry has conducted more than 120 interviews for the George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama Presidential Oral History Projects; participated in the Bill Clinton interviews; directed the Edward Kennedy Oral History Project; and co-directs the Hillary Rodham Clinton 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, 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.

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. 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. 

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, 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.

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 A. Perry News Feed

On the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the 2021 Ambassador William C. Battle Symposium explores its impact on the United States at home and in the world. Drawing on expertise from scholars, practitioners, and journalists, this conference examines the history of this era with an eye toward its implications for the future.
Barbara Perry Miller Center Presents
Americans typically support newly elected presidents and those who have left office. It’s incumbents they often dislike. George W. Bush is no exception.
The Hill
Consoler in chief is a role required of every American president, but few have embraced it quite as fully as Biden. And Barbara Perry, a presidential scholar at the University of Virginia's Miller Center, says she can't think of a president who has approached the role by sharing so much of their own story so frequently. "We want presidents to grieve with us because we view them as the fathers of our country and the leader of our American family. But we also want to make sure that that leader is not oversharing or being tearful or collapsing with us."
Barbara Perry NPR Morning Edition
My colleagues and I at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center conducted extensive interviews with the most senior leaders in Bush’s administration and Congress about 9/11. Their observations about the most devastating attack ever launched on the American homeland, and the resulting global war on terror, provide insights that future presidents ignore at the country’s peril.
Barbara Perry Dallas Morning News
Barbara Perry, director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, said it’s too early to determine whether and to what extent the Afghanistan exit will define Biden’s legacy but argued that the current media environment could make it difficult for Biden to move beyond it.
Barbara Perry The Hill
Four US presidents have overseen America's presence in Afghanistan over the past two decades. How they handled the conflict was shaped by conditions on the ground, but also by their distinctive views on American values and interests. Presidential historian Barbara Perry assesses how they will be remembered.
Barbara Perry BBC