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 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 announcement of Bayh’s death this week at the age of 91 recalls his role in the mid-20th century’s version of progressive Democratic politics and how it might enlighten today’s struggle for the party’s soul.
Barbara Perry The Hill
Geography, unsurprisingly, plays a big role in presidential elections, said Barbara Perry, the director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center.

Barbara Perry Minneapolis Star Tribune
Ahead of the Presidents Day holiday, Amy Walter talks to Dr. Barbara Perry about the role of of the executive and how it has changed over time. Dr. Perry is a professor of presidential studies at the University of Virginia. She says to understand how the president’s role has changed and developed over the course of history we have to go to the beginning, like the real beginning.
Barbara Perry WNYC The Takeaway
On Friday, to avert another government shutdown, President Trump signed a bipartisan spending package that he argues did not include enough funding for a border wall. To secure that funding, he declared a national emergency. In advance of Trump’s official announcement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke out against the idea of an emergency declaration. Is declaring a national emergency in this situation allowed? Unprecedented? To get a better understanding of this use of executive power Amy Walter spoke to Dr. Barbara Perry, the director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia's Miller Center.
Barbara Perry WNYC The Takeaway
Barbara Perry is featured in "Presidents at War," a two-night History Channel event. This landmark series tells the story of World War II through the experiences of eight remarkable men. Men who, like sixteen million other Americans, bravely serve their country during its darkest hour, and then go on to further service as the nation’s Commanders-in-Chief. Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. This is the story of how their war experiences change them, how they emerge from conflict as leaders and how the crucible of war shapes the decisions they make when they reach the White House.
Barbara Perry History Channel
“He fashions his own reality,” said Barbara Perry, a presidential historian at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs. “It’s like John Kennedy going out after the Bay of Pigs and saying, ‘What a great victory.’ But for [Trump’s] base, I’m just not sure that it matters to them.”
Barbara Perry The Washington Post