Experts

Barbara Perry

Fast Facts

  • White Burkett Miller Center Professor of Ethics and Institutions 
  • 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

First ladies know this as well as anyone. Before Melania, other first ladies faced criticism for their wardrobes, like Mary Todd Lincoln, who was known for her pricey frocks. "You can imagine this did not go over well in the press, and it upset her husband," Barbara Perry, director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia's Miller Center, told COVER/LINE. And Calvin Coolidge seemed worried his wife, Grace, known for her style, would overshadow him.
Barbara Perry CNN
The 10 most important modern presidential speeches selected by scholars at the Miller Center—a nonpartisan affiliate of the University of Virginia that specializes in presidential scholarship—and professors from other universities, as well.
Barbara Perry History.com
“We know his strength is the campaign style and the tweet,” says the Miller Center's Barbara Perry. “That's what he does to reach his base, and he does that very well. What I would say to the president is be presidential—this is your opportunity to do that."
Barbara Perry NBC 29
The Miller Center's Barbara Perry said anointing someone as "survivor" during a big event like the State of the Union could come down to whether the president will be talking about a particular department in his speech, which would require the cabinet secretary to be in the audience so cameras can pan to him or her.
Barbara Perry AOL
The state of the presidency, however, “is at a crossroads,” said Barbara Perry, a director of the Miller Center of public policy at the University of Virginia and a longtime presidential scholar. And it’s going to take a different type of presidential performance Tuesday to hush concerns about which direction his presidency is headed. He’s going to have to downshift into a controlled teleprompter Trump mode and stay away from his much more common off-script mode. “Can he do it?” Perry asked. “Who can predict anything he does?”
Barbara Perry San Francisco Chronicle
The 25th Amendment — codifying protocols for when a president dies or is unable to serve — wasn’t even ratified until 1967. That was after Dwight D. Eisenhower had suffered a major heart attack, which left him recuperating in Denver for several weeks in 1955. (His press secretary first reported it as indigestion before coming clean). It was also after John F. Kennedy was assassinated, a sharp reminder of presidential mortality. In life, Kennedy presented an image of healthful vigor, but “his ailments were legion,” says Barbara Perry of the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, which studies the American presidency. Among them: Addison’s disease, crippling back pain, colitis — not to mention a physician nicknamed “Dr. Feelgood” who prescribed the president amphetamines.
Barbara Perry The Washington Post