Barbara A. 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 16 books on presidents, First Ladies, the Kennedy family, the Supreme Court, and civil rights and civil liberties. Perry has conducted more than 120 interviews for the George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama Presidential Oral History Projects; participated in the Bill Clinton interviews; directed 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 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, 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.

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 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 A. Perry News Feed

"We all know powerful variants have emerged, like the Delta variant, but the best defense against these variants is to get vaccinated," the president said in his speech. Barbara Perry, the University of Virginia's director of presidential studies, pointed out to Newsweek that the state of the pandemic had improved at the time of Biden's remark, but it just turned out that "it was the calm before the storm."
Barbara Perry Newsweek
But if there was criminal wrongdoing and no charges were brought, future presidents might be emboldened to break the law. “I would make the argument that for the rule of law, for our democratic republic, for our Constitution, that we cannot have presidents attempting to overturn elections,” Barbara Perry, director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia's Miller Center, told Spectrum News. “The Constitution is lost if that happens.”
Barbara Perry Spectrum News NY1
Barbara Perry, Director of Presidential Studies with UVA’s Miller Center, says Justice Stephen Breyer's retirement is a great loss to the country.

"I'm hoping that the Miller Center here at the University of Virginia will have an opportunity to work with him going forward. So, he's a loss, a great loss to the country in terms of his experience and background,” she said.
Barbara Perry CBS19
Historically, SCOTUS justices have taken three approaches to religion in the public square: strict separation of church and state, neutrality toward religion, or accommodation of religion.
Today in the Miller Center’s weekly Ukraine “War Room” discussion, we talked about how the Biden administration might pivot from painting Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as autocracy versus democracy. Instead, the U.S. could portray the war as the illegal violation of a sovereign nation’s territory. From the perspective of effective foreign policy and international law norms, this suggestion makes good sense. It also reflects the diminution of American democracy on the world stage. Just this week alone, I have fielded questions about the January 6th Committee’s revelations and the Supreme Court’s recent decisions from England, Australia, Canada, and the Middle East. It seems obvious that when a male Middle Eastern journalist is concerned about the reduction of women’s rights in the United States, America has reached a regrettable point of regression.
Barbara Perry Miller Center Russia-Ukraine blog
Dr. Barbara Perry, University of Virginia Miller Center Director of Presidential Studies, says Roe v. Wade is just the beginning. Now there is no precedence for the right to contraceptives or same-sex marriage.

"Many people are pointing to Justice Thomas's concurring opinion in the Dobbs case in which he questioned on the same basis that he questioned Roe v. Wade, right to contraceptive use, right to sexual equality, right to sexual privacy. That has people consciously concerned," she said.

Perry also adds this is why voting in presidential elections is always very important because the president has the power to nominate judges, which directly influences the Supreme Court and the rights of citizens.
Barbara Perry CBS19