Culpeper Star-Exponent: Remembering Terry Anderson, AP reporter held hostage by Hezbollah


An Associated Press correspondent who became one of America’s longest-held hostages is being memorialized in the halls of Congress and by local friends in Orange County.

Terry Anderson was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and journalist taken hostage by Hezbollah in 1985 and held imprisoned until late 1991. He chronicled his abduction and torturous imprisonment by Islamic militants in a bestselling 1993 memoir “Den of Lions.”

Anderson died April 21 at his home in New York. He was 76.

In 2015, the author retired to a horse farm in Unionville, according to a release on Monday from the office of U.S. Rep. Spanberger, D-7th.

“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 remarks last week on the House floor, Spanberger stood “to honor the remarkable life and the legacy of a former constituent, Mr. Terry Anderson.” She said she met him on the campaign trail in 2018.

“I had the occasion of meeting someone who was known to be a local advocate and a local activist, but the name was familiar to me,” she said. “I met with this gentleman, and I heard his story, and it was one that was familiar to me from my childhood — and one that is familiar probably to many of you.”

Nearly 40 years ago, he became one of several Westerners abducted by members of the Shiite Muslim group Hezbollah during a time of war that had plunged Lebanon into chaos, according to NPR. As AP’s chief Middle East correspondent, Anderson had been reporting for several years in Lebanon, on its war with Israel, as Iran-funded militants tried to topple the government.

“He was a correspondent who fearlessly pursued truth in some of the world’s most volatile regions and his commitment to on-the-ground eyewitness reporting was unwavering,” Spanberger said.

Anderson was a combat veteran of the Vietnam War, she said. While in captivity, he generated support for those who continue the mission of collecting knowledge and reporting hard facts on the ground, she added.

Anderson advocated for press freedom worldwide throughout the remainder of his career once he returned back home to the U.S., Spanberger said.

In addition, he ran for elected office in Ohio, taught university-level journalism, opened a few restaurants, a horse ranch and a blues bar.

“For a time, he lived on a farm in Orange County, Virginia, which is when I had the opportunity to meet him and, frankly, eat some of his extraordinary cooking. He was a man of many interests, he was a man of great passion, he was a man who loved and spoke often of his children, and he was a man who inspired me,” Spanberger said.

“Towards the end of his life, he once remarked, ‘I’ve lived so much and I’ve done so much. I’m content,’” she continued. “His legacy has left an indelible mark on our world and his resilience and courage have set an example for so many of us. I ask my colleagues to please join me in remembering Terry Anderson.”

Anderson was a catalyst in activating the Orange Democrats, according to Bill Speiden, a retired Orange County farmer active in the local party. He was “a major factor in taking us from a ‘pass the hat’ organization to a group of active members who actually go by the rules and are more of a presence in Orange County,” Speiden said.

Sandra Smith, a precinct operations chair with Orange Democrats, recalled meeting Anderson in 2017.

“He walked into our meeting early enough to pick up his coffee and donut and I thought to myself, ‘That guy looks familiar.’ He smiled at me and said, Hi, I’m Terry Anderson.’ A little taken aback, I replied, ‘The Terry Anderson?’ He laughed and said, ‘Yes, the Terry Anderson.’ Of course my reply was, ‘I loved your book!’ And with a polite ‘Thank you very much,’ he sat down to join the meeting. By the end of that hour he had joined a committee and had volunteered to sell tickets for the upcoming legislative dinner,” Smith said.

Anderson was a mover and a shaker, she added, volunteering on campaigns and with the party. He encouraged an organized party and was there when the new office opened off Main Street in 2019, according to Smith.

“It was his charm, his easy friendly manner, his passion for truth and love for his family and, yes, those intensely great cooking skills that made him so special.”

When Anderson’s term as Orange Democrats chairman was about to end, he told members his daughter was returning home and he wanted to buy a place in rural New York where she would work and they could live together, Smith said. “You could see the happiness in his face, his dream come true. His choice was obvious, he had to leave us, but we will always be grateful for what he left behind.”

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