Terry Anderson, AP reporter who was held captive for years, dies at 76 (2024)


Terry Anderson, the globe-trotting Associated Press correspondent who became one of America’s longest-held hostages after he was snatched from a street in war-torn Lebanon in 1985 and held for nearly seven years, has died at 76.

Anderson, who chronicled his abduction and torturous imprisonment by Islamic militants in his best-selling 1993 memoir, “Den of Lions,” died Sunday at his home in Greenwood Lake, N.Y., according to daughter Sulome Anderson.

Anderson died of complications from recent heart surgery, his daughter said.

“Terry was deeply committed to on-the-ground eyewitness reporting and demonstrated great bravery and resolve, both in his journalism and during his years held hostage. We are so appreciative of the sacrifices he and his family made as the result of his work,” said Julie Pace, senior vice president and executive editor of the AP.


“He never liked to be called a hero, but that’s what everyone persisted in calling him,” said Sulome. “I saw him a week ago, and my partner asked him if he had anything on his bucket list, anything that he wanted to do. He said, ‘I’ve lived so much and I’ve done so much. I’m content.’ ”

After returning to the United States in 1991, Anderson led a peripatetic life, giving public speeches, teaching journalism at prominent universities and, at various times, operating a blues bar, a Cajun eatery, a horse ranch and a gourmet restaurant.

He struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder, won millions of dollars in frozen Iranian assets after a federal court concluded that the country played a role in his capture, then lost most of it to bad investments. He filed for bankruptcy in 2009.

Upon retiring from the University of Florida in 2015, Anderson settled on a small horse farm in a rural section of northern Virginia he had discovered while camping with friends.

Hostage Ordeal Ends as Anderson Is Freed : Mideast: ‘Faith, stubbornness’ kept him going through 6 1/2 years as captive, American says. He left his captors with a single word--’Goodby.’

Terry A.

Dec. 5, 1991

“I live in the country, and it’s reasonably good weather and quiet out here and a nice place, so I’m doing all right,” he said with a chuckle during a 2018 interview with the Associated Press.

In 1985 he became one of several Westerners abducted by members of the Shiite Muslim group Hezbollah during a war that had plunged Lebanon into chaos.


After his release, he returned to a hero’s welcome at AP’s New York headquarters.

Louis D. Boccardi, the president and chief executive officer of the AP at the time, recalled Sunday that Anderson’s plight was never far from his AP colleagues’ minds.

“The word ‘hero’ gets tossed around a lot but applying it to Terry Anderson just enhances it,” Boccardi said. “His 6½-year ordeal as a hostage of terrorists was as unimaginable as it was real — chains, being transported from hiding place to hiding place strapped to the chassis of a truck, given often inedible food, cut off from the world he reported on with such skill and caring.”

As the AP’s chief Middle East correspondent, Anderson had been reporting for several years on the rising violence gripping Lebanon as the country fought a war with Israel, while Iran funded militant groups trying to topple its government.

American journalist Terry Anderson, the longest-held Western hostage in Beirut, in a videotape released Sunday called on all sides to press negotiations for an overall hostage release.

Oct. 7, 1991

On March 16, 1985, a day off, he had taken a break to play tennis with former AP photographer Don Mell. Anderson was dropping Mell off at home when gun-toting kidnappers dragged him from his car.

He was probably targeted, he said, because he was one of the few Westerners still in Lebanon and because his role as a journalist aroused suspicion among members of Hezbollah.

“Because in their terms, people who go around asking questions in awkward and dangerous places have to be spies,“ he told the Virginia newspaper the Review of Orange County in 2018.


Reporter Starts 7th Year as Hostage : Lebanon: Terry Anderson of AP is the longest held--and best known--of the Westerners abducted by Islamic fundamentalists.

In a city of 1.4 million people and a reputation for chaos, is it possible that a letter with only a name and “Beirut” for an address can be delivered?

March 16, 1991

What followed was nearly seven years of brutality during which he was beaten, chained to a wall, threatened with death, often had guns held to his head and was kept in solitary confinement for long periods of time.

Anderson was the longest held of several Western hostages Hezbollah abducted over the years, including Terry Waite, the former envoy to the archbishop of Canterbury, who had arrived to try to negotiate his release.

Envoy Waite Detained by Hezbollah Forces, Diplomatic Sources Say

Anglican Church envoy Terry Waite is being detained by fundamentalist Hezbollah forces in Lebanon in a political tug-of-war between the militant Shia Muslim group, which has close ties to Iran, and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, diplomatic sources said Friday.

Jan. 31, 1987

By his and other hostages’ accounts, Anderson was the most hostile prisoner, demanding better food and treatment, arguing religion and politics with his captors and teaching other hostages sign language and where to hide messages so they could communicate privately.

He managed to retain a quick wit and biting sense of humor during his long ordeal. On his last day in Beirut, he called the lead kidnapper into his room to say he’d just heard an erroneous radio report that he’d been freed and was in Syria.

“I said, ‘Mahmound, listen to this, I’m not here. I’m gone, babes. I’m on my way to Damascus.’ And we both laughed,” he told Giovanna Dell’Orto, author of “AP Foreign Correspondents in Action: World War II to the Present.”

He learned later that his release was delayed when a third party, to whom his kidnappers planned to turn him over, left for a tryst and had to be replaced.


Mell, who was in the car during the abduction, said Sunday that he and Anderson shared an uncommon bond.

“Our relationship was much broader and deeper, and more important and meaningful, than just that one incident,” Mell said.

Mell credited Anderson with launching his career in journalism, pushing for the young photographer to be hired by the AP full-time. After Anderson was released, their friendship deepened. They were best man at each other’s weddings and were in frequent contact.

Anderson’s humor often hid the PTSD he acknowledged suffering for years afterward.

In Ukraine, relief over U.S. aid vote — and fear over what an angry Russia will do next

Amid worsening Ukraine war outlook, an infusion of American military aid is seen as crucial in the fight against Russian invaders. Will it be enough?

April 21, 2024

In Ukraine’s old imperial city, pastel palaces are in jeopardy, but black humor survives

Ukraine’s port of Odesa is a key Russian target, endangering the city’s UNESCO-designated historic center and challenging citizens to keep their sense of humor.

April 21, 2024

“The AP got a couple of British experts in hostage decompression, clinical psychiatrists, to counsel my wife and myself, and they were very useful,” he said in 2018. “But one of the problems I had was I did not recognize sufficiently the damage that had been done.

“So, when people ask me, you know, ‘Are you over it?’ Well, I don’t know. No, not really. It’s there. I don’t think about it much these days; it’s not central to my life. But it’s there.”

Anderson said his faith as a Christian helped him let go of the anger. And something his wife later told him also helped him to move on: “If you keep the hatred you can’t have the joy.”


At the time of his abduction, Anderson was engaged to be married, and his future wife was six months pregnant with Sulome.

The couple married soon after his release but divorced a few years later. Although they remained on friendly terms, Anderson and his daughter were estranged for years.

“I love my dad very much. My dad has always loved me. I just didn’t know that because he wasn’t able to show it to me,” Sulome told the AP in 2017.

A Gazan baby is born an orphan in an urgent C-section after Israeli strike kills mother

Sabreen came into the world seconds after her mother left it. Their home was hit in an Israeli airstrike in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

April 21, 2024

Father and daughter reconciled after the publication of her critically acclaimed 2017 book “The Hostage’s Daughter,” in which she told of traveling to Lebanon to confront and eventually forgive one of her father’s kidnappers.

“I think she did some extraordinary things, went on a very difficult personal journey, but also accomplished a pretty important piece of journalism doing it,” Anderson said. “She’s now a better journalist than I ever was.”

Terry Alan Anderson was born Oct. 27, 1947. He spent his early childhood in the Lake Erie town of Vermilion, Ohio, where his father was a police officer.


After graduating from high school, he turned down a scholarship to the University of Michigan in favor of enlisting in the Marines, where he rose to the rank of staff sergeant and served in the Vietnam War.

After returning home, he enrolled at Iowa State University, where he graduated with a double major in journalism and political science and soon went to work for the AP. He reported from Kentucky, Japan and South Africa before arriving in Lebanon in 1982, just as the country was descending into chaos.

“Actually, it was the most fascinating job I’ve ever had in my life,” he told the Review. “It was intense. War’s going on — it was very dangerous in Beirut. Vicious civil war, and I lasted about three years before I got kidnapped.”

Anderson was married and divorced three times. In addition to Sulome, he is survived by daughter Gabrielle Anderson from his first marriage; a sister, Judy Anderson; and a brother, Jack Anderson.

“Though my father’s life was marked by extreme suffering during his time as a hostage in captivity, he found a quiet, comfortable peace in recent years,” Sulome said in a statement Sunday. “I know he would choose to be remembered not by his very worst experience, but through his humanitarian work with the Vietnam Children’s Fund, the Committee to Protect Journalists, homeless veterans and many other incredible causes.”

Memorial arrangements were pending, she said.

Associated Press writers Meldrum and Weber reported from New York and Los Angeles, respectively. Retired AP writer John Rogers in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

More to Read

  • Mike Downey, Sports columnist who enlightened Times readers for 15 years, dies at 72

    June 14, 2024

  • Christophe Deloire, head of media freedom group Reporters Without Borders, has died. He was 53

    June 10, 2024

  • U.S. intelligence suggests American who vanished in Syria in 2017 has died, daughter says she was told

    May 18, 2024

Terry Anderson, AP reporter who was held captive for years, dies at 76 (2024)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Lidia Grady

Last Updated:

Views: 6671

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (65 voted)

Reviews: 80% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Lidia Grady

Birthday: 1992-01-22

Address: Suite 493 356 Dale Fall, New Wanda, RI 52485

Phone: +29914464387516

Job: Customer Engineer

Hobby: Cryptography, Writing, Dowsing, Stand-up comedy, Calligraphy, Web surfing, Ghost hunting

Introduction: My name is Lidia Grady, I am a thankful, fine, glamorous, lucky, lively, pleasant, shiny person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.