Conwell’s Family Not Surprised At His Leadership Role
Undated (AP) _ Allyn Blair Conwell’s family was not surprised to see the tall Texan end his 17-day ordeal as hostage the same way they saw him begin it - running a news conference and telling reporters to behave.
″He’s the leader type,″ said his older brother, Ron. ″He handles himself well under pressure, and he’s a person who will think things out. He’s not prone to rash moves.″
″We’re tickled to death,″ his sister, Carma Little, said in Houston. ″We’re just busting. We’re so proud of him.″
Conwell, 39, was spokesman for the hostages at their first news conference in Beirut, Lebanon, on June 20, which degenerated into a brawl. Once order was restored, Conwell came back and pleaded for restraint.
On Sunday, as a newly free man, Conwell was again in command at a news conference in Damascus, Syria. Opening the floor to questions, he said: ″I’m well aware and somewhat experienced with chaotic news conferences. So, we’re a little limited for time so please, we’re welcome, open for questions.″
Later, in a joking reference to his yeoman duty as hostage spokesman and subject of many television interviews, he quipped, ″For once, my lips are getting tired.″
Conwell spent much of the past 10 years in the Middle East and in Asia working for U.S. oil field service companies. He is now based in Muscat, Oman, as area manager for Enterra Co., a subsidiary of the Houston-based Oil Field Rental Service Co., which rents heavy machinery for oil exploration and production.
His brother described him as a patriotic, conservative man with a strong sense of fair play.
″He feels angry and upset and he wants to get out of there. But I think at the same time, he understands that the people the Israelis are holding are angry and upset and want to get out of there, too. I think he understands their cause,″ Ron Conwell said before the hostages’ release.
That was apparent Sunday when Conwell was asked about the possibility of retaliation against the hijackers.
″Retaliation sounds an awful lot like revenge. I don’t seek any retaliation or revenge,″ he said. ″I think all of the men here would like to see justice prevail, justice and understanding, but more so than retribution, retaliation or any other vengeful emotion.
″I think we all need to find a deeper understanding of the circumstances that led up to people taking a desperate act, and if we do that, that is without a doubt in my mind the surest way to finding a solution to the international terrorist dilemma.″
Nicknamed ″Big Al″ because of his 6-foot-2 stature, he was the All- American boy, said stepmother Rosetta Conwell.
″He was so well-mannered, very polite. All the teachers just loved him,″ Mrs. Conwell said.
He lived in Houston until he finished junior high school, and then went to live with his father and stepmother in Mooreland, Ind. His father and mother had divorced.
In high school, Conwell was involved in athletics, the Future Farmers of America and the National Honor Society. He won the lead in his senior play, was elected president of his senior class and liked to debate, his stepmother said.
After graduation in 1965, he married his high-school sweetheart. They had a daughter, Terri, now 19, before divorcing six years later.
Conwell enrolled at Purdue University, but dropped out two years because he was itching to begin a career, Mrs. Conwell said.
He returned to Houston and sold oil equipment, said Ron Conwell. He later took similar jobs in Singapore, Dubai and Greece, where he met his second wife, Olga, 30. They have two children, Alexander, 5, and Alexis, 2.
The family stopped in Houston in early June during an around-the-world trip to visit relatives and to sell their home in Houston.
Conwell ended the vacation in Greece after visiting his wife’s family. The Conwells were booked on a June 14 flight back to Oman by way of Rome. But Mrs. Conwell and the children decided to remain in Corfu for an extended visit.