Survivor of Iran Hostage Crisis delivers Barden Lecture

Buies Creek, N.C.-Thirty years ago this month, Iranian militants stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran and took 66 Americans captive. This terrorist act triggered the most profound crisis of Jimmy Carter’s presidency. One of the hostages, U.S. government consultant Cortlandt Barnes, spoke from his own perspective at Campbell University’s Barden Forum on Monday, Nov. 2.

Barnes was a U.S. Government Communications officer assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Tehran when the takeover occurred. At 10 a.m. on Nov. 4, 1979. Barnes reported that Iranians were attacking the Embassy, incited by the Ayatollah Khomeini who had returned from exile when the Shah of Iran’s regime collapsed and he fled to the United States.

“By 3:30 p.m., the hostages were blindfolded and handcuffed in the hallway of the Embassy. We were very afraid,” Barnes said.

The hostages were then taken to the Ambassador’s residence, one of the many locations to which they would be moved during their 444 days of captivity. Barnes remembers his incarceration as “day after day of unrelieved boredom–98%–interspersed with episodes of sheer terror.”

After a failed attempt at rescuing the hostages, they were finally released just after President Ronald Reagan took office in January of 1982.

A native of Arlington, Va., Barnes attended Miami-Dade Junior College and the University of Mississippi prior to active duty in the U.S. Navy. Upon release from active duty, he applied for and was accepted as an employee of the Central Intelligence Agency. He spent 25 years at the CIA primarily in communications and science and technology disciplines. Upon his retirement from the CIA, Barnes joined Lockheed Martin where he worked on satellite communications. In 1998 he left Lockheed to become an independent consultant to the U.S. Government, an endeavor he continues on a part-time basis today. He and his wife Cynthia reside in Leland, N.C.

Barden Lecture

The Barden Chair of Government was established at Campbell University in 1971, in honor of U.S. Representative Graham A. Barden, who was elected as North Carolina’s Third District representative in 1934 and served 26 years. The annual Barden Forum lecture series was begun in 1991. A conservative from New Bern, N.C., Barden is best remembered for his involvement in education and labor legislation.

Photo Copy: Cortlandt Barnes describes his experiences as a hostage in Iran at Campbell University’s annual Barden Forum lecture. (Photo by Bennett Scarborough)