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, 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 Ph.D. in government from the University of Virginia; an M.A. in politics, philosophy, and economics from Oxford University; and a B.A. 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, Dr. Perry is here to discuss how the U.S. Supreme Court may look and act differently now that Justice Anthony Kennedy has retired after thirty years. We spoke less than 24 hours after President Trump announced his nominee for the Supreme Court seat, Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, who once was a clerk for Kennedy.
Barbara Perry The Score
The work of these outside interest groups “torpedoed” Parker’s confirmation, says Barbara Perry, the Director of Presidential Studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs, who spoke to TIME as part of a presidential-history partnership between TIME History and the Miller Center.
Barbara Perry TIME
Kavanaugh's brand of conservatism is more akin to his mentor President George W. Bush's "compassionate" variety than the extremism of many "movement conservatives" in the Goldwater/Reagan mold.
Barbara Perry CNN
University of Virginia Miller Center scholar Barbara Perry expects Judge Brett Kavanaugh to push the U.S. Supreme Court to the right while avoiding some of the incendiary language and judicial opinions of more ultra-conservative judges.
Barbara Perry UVA Today
Trump has characteristically upended precedent in Supreme Court appointments, relying on interest groups to provide lists of candidates during the 2016 campaign, considering judges with clear track records, and enticing Kennedy into retirement. A Republican majority in the Senate, slim though it is, gives this president more leeway than Reagan had in filling the swing seat of Justice Powell when the Democrats controlled the upper chamber. By adding Utah senator Mike Lee to the roster of potential nominees, Trump has considered departing from the Reagan-initiated pattern of naming sitting judges to the Supreme Court. A senator hasn’t been appointed to the high bench since Harry Truman nominated his former Senate colleague Harold Burton in 1945.
Barbara Perry The Hill
Barbara Perry, an expert on the history of the Supreme Court, also told Haaretz that it would take “an unusual development” for Trump to fail in appointing Kennedy’s replacement. Perry, a scholar at the Miller Center for Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, cautioned that one issue which could become an Achilles' heel for the nominee is abortion.
Barbara Perry Haaretz