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

My nominee for a posthumous presidential pardon is the intriguing Vermont congressman Matthew Lyon. A member of Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican party, Lyon was convicted in 1798 of violating the Sedition Act and sentenced to four months in jail.
Barbara Perry TIME
“He was a crucial helpmate to his brother, who helped end the Cuban Missile Crisis and push the Civil Rights Act forward, which JFK championed and [brother] Ted Kennedy also gave a speech in support of,” said Barbara Perry, director of UVa’s Miller Center. “Just think about those three brothers contributing to the landmark legislation that we still need today.”
Barbara Perry Daily Progress
When Robert F. Kennedy died 50 years ago today, the victim of assassination like his brother, President John F. Kennedy, Sen. Edward Kennedy received word of the unfathomable historical repetition while completing a campaign swing through northern California. Just when they had achieved victory in the Golden State’s 1968 Democratic presidential primary, the Kennedys’ world collapsed, as it had on that horrific November day in 1963. The clan’s matriarch Rose Kennedy explained, “It seemed impossible that the same kind of disaster could befall our family twice in five years. If I had read it in fiction, I would have said it was incredible.”
Barbara Perry The Hill
When Robert Kennedy was shot 50 years ago today, Sen. Edward Kennedy became the family's patriarch at age 36.
Barbara Perry, presidential studies director at the University of Virginia's Miller Center, said Trump “didn’t want to be embarrassed by only a small group of players showing up, so he told them to not come.” “It’s a thumb in the eye of the players who didn’t want to come, and it’s a thumb in the eye of those who support them kneeling,” she said. “It’s not the first time a president has used the military like this. But this time, there are partisan, racial and emotional aspects that’s just beyond the pale as someone who cares about the office and what it has stood for.”
Barbara Perry Roll Call
This coming week, on June 6, Americans will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Robert F. Kennedy, who was gunned down during a tumultuous year that also saw the murder of Martin Luther King Junior, riots at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, and a turning point in public opposition to the war in Vietnam. I spoke by telephone to presidential scholar Barbara Perry of the Miller Center for Public Affairs at the University of Virginia about the significance of Kennedy’s death fifty years ago.
Barbara Perry The Score