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, 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 12 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 and George W. Bush Oral History Projects; researched the Bill Clinton Oral History Project interviews, and directed 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 (forthcoming), 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

This week marked a shift in the ongoing impeachment inquiry as the first round of televised testimony began on Wednesday. Marie Yovanovitch, the well-respected former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine until May of this year became the third televised testimony on Friday. Yovanovitch believes she was removed from her post by President Trump because as she sees it, she was impeding his - and Rudy Guiliani’s - personal political agenda. Barbara Perry of the University of Virginia's Miller Center describes how social media and the 24-hour news cycle changes how Americans metabolize impeachment.
Barbara Perry WNYC The Takeaway
Republicans show few signs of deserting Trump, but University of Virginia expert Barbara Ann Perry predicted they will be closely watching public opinion polls as the hearings play out. "If they saw that the people in their state or members of Congress in their district saw that Donald Trump was becoming increasingly unpopular and disapproved of, I could see then that members of Congress could turn on him even in his own party. That is the impact of public opinion," she told VOA recently via Skype.
Barbara Perry VOA News
Third-party candidates aren’t new. Even before the modern Democratic and Republican parties staked out their territory in the American political landscape, candidates outside the mainstream have waged challenges to the status quo. Most of the time, they lose. But they do matter. Today on All Sides with Ann Fisher: the history and future of third-party candidates in the American political system, featuring Barbara Perry from the University of Virginia's Miller Center.
Barbara Perry WOSU
No president is perfect. The mark of a good one is one who can admit his faults and learn from them.
Barbara Perry and Spencer D. Bakich USA Today
“To have an endowed chair is the highest honor a professor can have,” said Miller Center Director of Presidential Studies Barbara Perry when she became the first to hold the title. “I have had two chairs previously, but this is the first I’ve had that is named for someone who not only hired me at the Miller Center, but whom I considered to be a mentor and friend.”
Barbara Perry UVA Today
Trump’s repeated references to his impeachment even as he carries out the duties of his office highlight how the president is seeking to turn his greatest political threat into a reelection rallying cry, said Barbara Perry, a presidential historian at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs. “If he had his choice, he probably wouldn’t want to be impeached,” she said. “But now that it’s happening and it’s moving toward his probable impeachment, he’s thinking, ‘Why not make lemons out of lemonade?’ ”
Barbara Perry The Washington Post