William F. Keough Jr., who was one of 52 American hostages held in the U.S. Embassy in Iran for 444 days in 1979-81, has died of Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
The 6-foot 9-inch educator died in his home Wednesday, with his wife, Katherine, at his bedside. He was 55.
“It was very important to him to die here, at home, in his own bed,” said his wife. “He was a long time away.”
Within a year of his release in January, 1981, Keough was diagnosed as having amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, an incurable degenerative ailment of the central nervous system.
Keough often was the spokesman for the hostages held captive by militant students during the most intense days of the revolution led by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Keough, of Waltham, Mass., had been superintendent of the 4,000-student American School in Tehran but had taken a new post in Pakistan. He had returned to the embassy in Tehran to collect student records at the time of its seizure by the militants Nov. 4, 1979.
The hostages were taken after the flight into exile of Shah Reza Pahlavi and Khomeini’s rise to power.
Their release was tied to the return of the shah to Iran to face trial for alleged crimes against the Iranian people, a demand President Jimmy Carter refused to meet.
Keough served as the head of several schools in New England before accepting the post in Iran. He remained in Washington after his release.
In an interview this year, Keough, who lost 80 pounds while in captivity, said there was “no sense wringing your hands,” over his always fatal illness.
“I keep remembering a line from Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’ that goes, ‘Cowards die many times before their deaths; but the valiant taste of death but once.’ ”