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

The nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to take the place of Justice Anthony Kennedy was the subject of a forum at the Miller Center yesterday. Supreme Court expert Barbara Perry talked about the makeup of the new court with UVA law professors Saikrishna Prakash and Micah Schwartzman. WMRA’s Marguerite Gallorini reports.
Barbara Perry WMRA
Barbara Perry, presidential studies director at the Miller Center at the University of Virginia, said that Democrats seem ready to start “fighting fire with fire.” “It seems to me that Democrats have now realized that you can’t fight with a set of rules when your opponent is not following them,” she said. “And at the moment, there’s not an opportunity for a referee to step in and say, ‘Stop. You need to follow these rules.'”
Barbara Perry TIME
“Congressional inquiries were starting to be nationally televised at this time,” says Barbara Perry, the Director of Presidential Studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs, speaking to TIME as part of a presidential-history partnership between TIME History and the Miller Center. As events such as the 1954 Army-McCarthy hearings drew national attention to what could be seen of Washington on television, that interest eventually spread to television — an trend that reached fruition in 1981, when Sandra Day O’Connor’s hearings were broadcast.
Barbara Perry TIME
The white nationalist march and violent confrontation with counterprotesters the next day was “shattering” to a man who had dedicated a career of more than 50 years to rule of law and the role of civil liberties in national life. “His first statement to me was, ‘I can’t believe I’m living it again,’ ” said Barbara Perry, director of presidential studies at U.Va.’s Miller Center and a member of the “Tribe of Abraham,” as his devoted former students call themselves. “It was so poignant.”
Barbara Perry Richmond Times-Dispatch
Barbara Perry, the director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, pointed to a categorization system created by James Pfiffner that ranks different types of political deception by severity. “To base a policy on a, quote, fact or statistic that I presume he knows is false, or someone who wrote that statement for him knows is false — to me that’s the worst of all,” she said.
Barbara Perry TIME
“Donald Trump’s bizarre comparisons between his former campaign advisor Paul Manafort and Al Capone reveal the president’s all-too-familiar ignorance of history — this time the Prohibition Era,” said Barbara Perry, the director of presidential studies at University of Virginia’s Miller Center.
Barbara Perry TIME