Survivor of Iran Hostage Crisis delivers Barden Lecture

November 5, 2009 | 44 Comments


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)


Dear Mr.Barnes,
    Hello, my friend and I are working on a a history day project and would like to interview you in order to get a better understanding of the situation of the hostages during the Iranian Hostage CrisisCan you please email me at
  .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

By kareena on December 26, 2014 - 8:14pm

I am working on a History Fair project and need to do an Email interview on someone that was involved in some form with The Iranian Hostage Crisis.  If you can help me please email me back and I can send you or anyone you might be able to refer me to with the interview.


By Morgan on October 27, 2013 - 3:08pm

Mr. Barnes,
We Are Doing A Documentary Of The Iranian Revolution And Need The Perspectives Of What It Was Like As A Hostage. So If Possible We Would Like To USe You For An Interview.

By hector, Jordan, And Bret on September 20, 2011 - 12:22pm

I agree with the previous comments. It would be great if you could provide more info about the details of the living conditions, etc. This is such an important part of history.
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By Kamran on May 5, 2011 - 6:23pm

Hi I’m doing a History Fair project and I need to have at least one interview can you please email me back and maybe we can set up an appointment for an interview

By Stefano on April 7, 2011 - 1:31pm

Dear Mr. Barnes,
My friends and I are working on a history fair project and have been accepted to state. Unfortunatly our project is due tomorrow and we would like to get some more information. If it is not too late could you please give us some insight on what it was like as a hostage. Please let us know as soon as possible.
Marissa, Holly, and Kamrynn

By Kamrynn on April 4, 2011 - 5:17pm

Dear Mr. Barnes,
    My friend and I are participating in History Fair, and we have already made it to state.  We were just wondering if we could know some more background information about the Iranian Hostage Crisis.  We would like a response as soon as possible.  We would really appreciate it.  Thanks for your time.
    - Bryant & Angel

By Bryant Acosta on April 4, 2011 - 1:07pm

Hello Mr. Barnes:  Like a lot of other students, I am preparing my history day project on the Iranian Hostage Crisis.  I would be greatly appreciative if you could provide me with any first hand information on your experience, primarily what the living conditions were like, how you felt during this ordeal.  Thank you!

By Julia on March 3, 2011 - 8:51pm

Hello Mr.Barnes, we are doing our national history day project on “Iran Hostage Crisis” and we were wondering if you could please spare some time and tell us about how those days in Iran were. Thanks for your time.

By Muhannah and Collin on February 26, 2011 - 11:43am

word up hommie

By ryan on February 25, 2011 - 1:42pm

can i interview you 4 history day?

By dre on February 25, 2011 - 1:37pm

hey tyler way to spell"vital” right. lolz

By carter drew on February 8, 2011 - 3:05pm

like many other people we are wondering if we could interview you for a national history day project, it would be very helpful, and if we cant have a full interview just one q&a would help a lot.
thank you.

By carter/drew on February 5, 2011 - 8:22pm

hello sir,
I am working on a project-National History Days- and would like to interview you for it.
please email me,

By Bobby on February 1, 2011 - 2:11pm

Hello Mr.Barnes,
My name is Tyler and my school is doing National History Day. We love the topic of the Iran Hostage Crisis and your article is perfect for what we are reasearching. With this said we belive it is vitil to have a primary source just like you for our research. If we could coordinate an email interview with you would be so great!!! We have only a few questions so if you could please email us, we will email you back with just a few questions that would only take a few minutes.
Thank you so much,
NHD Group- Tyler, Dillon, Mike, Andrew, Alex!

By NHD Group on February 1, 2011 - 12:51pm

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