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

Barbara Perry directs presidential studies at the University of Virginia's Miller Center. She says foreign policy is an area where the Constitution and the Supreme Court are clear - the president has a lot of authority all on his own.
Barbara Perry NPR
“Even the instability is coming to feel stable, because it is now so accepted,” says Barbara Perry, a presidential historian at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville.
Barbara Perry The Christian Science Monitor
What makes a subset of first ladies so inextricably linked to their husband-presidents that they secure a spot in our collective memory as outstanding partners in their administrations? The answer is as complex as the role itself.
Barbara Perry The Dallas Morning News
"If you ask Donald Trump, how is this approach that you take to being president working for you, he would say, like gangbusters. And in many ways, he would be right and accurate. He's still got his base. What you're doing is working for you. It may not work for the country. It may not work for the world. But your base thinks it's working for the country and the world, and most of the people who voted for you will vote for you again."
Barbara Perry NPR Morning Edition
Presidential scholar Barbara Perry contends that Mr. Trump has made chaos in his administration such an organizing principle, and tumult so par for the course, that no single controversy seems particularly damaging to the President. “The potential tipping points seem to happen every day, every month, and we’ve lost perspective and we can’t get our bearings,” said Prof. Perry, director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. “He’s pressing down on the accelerator.”
Barbara Perry Toronto Globe and Mail
Holiday downtime and New Year’s resolutions open the door to reading new titles. Barbara Perry offers book suggestions on influential U.S. political figures on both sides of the aisle, highlighting George H.W. and Barbara Bush. Ms. Perry is the Gerald L. Baliles Professor and Director of Presidential Studies at the Miller Center at the University of Virginia. Follow her on Twitter @BarbaraPerryUVA.
Barbara Perry UVA Alumni Association