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, 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 14 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, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama Presidential Oral History Projects and she directs 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, 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

The March 1968 announcements from President Lyndon Johnson and Senator Robert Kennedy about their presidential plans. Two historians provided their perspective on the announcements.
Barbara Perry C-SPAN
Trump’s flurry of activity could also have a political impact as he attempts to show that he is not “aloof” as the country faces a national crisis, said Barbara Perry, a presidential historian at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. It’s a lesson that President George W. Bush learned after Hurricane Katrina, when he was photographed surveying the damage from a helicopter and was accused of not showing enough interest in the fate of New Orleans residents. “Trump is following that lesson, and just digging right in,” she said. “He’s making up for lost time by saying, ‘But here I am today.’ ”
Barbara Perry The Washington Post
A more accurate comparison to the novel coronavirus pandemic is an incident like the deadly polio outbreak under President Harry Truman in the late 1940s, said Barbara Perry, the director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. “Localities would shut down their pools and theaters and people would social isolate in the summertime, when it seemed to spread. Nobody pointed to a person or a country. That’s just the way it was,” Perry said.
Barbara Perry PBS NewsHour
In one way, the suspended campaign may be “a blessing in disguise” for Biden, said presidential historian Barbara Perry. He should take advantage of the lull to rest and work on building up his fundraising network, she said. “The problem is if people just take their eye off of him completely, if all the primary contests are postponed or Bernie drops out,” said Perry, director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. “There goes your free media.”
Barbara Perry San Francisco Chronicle
During times of crisis, people look to the President. A strong show of leadership has the power to calm nerves and reassure audiences that everything will be okay. Professor Barbara Perry is the Presidential Studies Director at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. Professor Perry weighs in on what the role of the president has been historically and what lessons can be applied to the ongoing pandemic.
Barbara Perry WNYC Politics with Amy Walter
When it comes to acts of God, modern presidents have faced their unfair share in truly biblical proportions.
The Hill