Barbara A. Perry

Fast Facts

  • Gerald L. Baliles Professor and co-chair, Presidential Oral History Program 
  • 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 in Presidential Studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, where she co-directs the Presidential Oral History Program. She has authored or edited 17 books on presidents, First Ladies, the Kennedy family, the Supreme Court, and civil rights and civil liberties. Perry has conducted more than 140 interviews for the George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama Presidential Oral History Projects; participated in the Bill Clinton interviews; directs the Edward Kennedy Oral History Project; and co-directs the Hillary Rodham Clinton 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 43: Inside the Presidency of George W. Bush (edited with Michael Nelson and Russell Riley)42: Inside the Presidency of Bill Clinton (edited with Nelson and Riley); 41: Inside the Presidency of George H.W. Bush (edited with 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, 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.

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. 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. 

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.

Perry serves on the board of directors of the White House Historical Association, the board of trustees of the Supreme Court Historical Society, the advisory board of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library Foundation, and the board of the Friends of the John F. Kennedy National Historic Site (JFK’s birthplace in Brookline, MA).

Previously, 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.

Perry recently lectured to members of the British Parliament on JFK and civil rights. She has participated in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Information Programs and teaches graduate courses for the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History on presidential leadership, the Kennedy era, and the Kennedy presidency. 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 A. Perry News Feed

“Robert Kennedy Sr. is the antithesis of Robert Kennedy Jr. He didn't split the party by running against it,” said Perry. “The last thing he says when he says farewell at the podium at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles just before he is shot is, ‘So it's on to Chicago, and let's win there.’”
Barbara Perry USA Today
“A variable that is so different from all these other people is the Kennedy name,” said Barbara Perry, an expert in presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. “There’s a lot of emotion around him that I would say was not there in the Anderson, Perot, (Ralph) Nader and Johnson cases.”
Barbara Perry AP
“For that slice of people who may be undecided in swing states, this could make an impact," said Barbara Perry.
Barbara Perry EWTN News Nightly
“Given that this could be a close election, especially in five or six swing states, a few 100 votes could tip the balance towards Trump or toward Biden," said Barbara Perry.
Barbara Perry 29 News
"Sports are a sacred object to many people. Patriotism is sacred to others. Putting them both in conflict helped to perpetuate the constant stream of Donald Trump," says Barbara Perry.
Barbara Perry Washington Post
"Let's say that this felony conviction stands all the way through November 5, this upcoming presidential election day. It would be the case that if he maintains his residency in Florida, a state where convicted felons are not allowed to vote, that he literally would not be allowed to vote for himself. The other irony of this, in addition to it being unprecedented … is that he and many Republicans have typically tried in recent years to suppress votes," says Barbara Perry.
Barbara Perry Voice of America