South Carolina sheriff refuses to lower flag in honor of Nelson Mandela

Posted on: 3:07 pm, December 8, 2013, by


(CNN) — A South Carolina sheriff is refusing to lower the American flag in tribute to Nelson Mandela, saying the honor should be reserved for American citizens.

President Obama ordered flags lowered to half-staff for the international icon until sunset Monday.

But Pickens County Sheriff Rick Clark says not in his department.

“It’s just my simple opinion that the flag should only be lowered to half-staff for Americans who sacrificed for their country,” Clark told CNN affiliate WHNS.

It should be lowered at the U.S. Embassy in South Africa, he said, but not at home.

The flag in his department was lowered over the weekend to honor a fallen law enforcement officer and for Pearl Harbor Day. But it will go right up Sunday morning, he said.

“I have no problem lowering it in South Africa in their country but not for our country. It should be the people who have sacrificed for our country.”

Mandela became the symbol of the fight against racial discrimination in South Africa, and served 27 years behind bars for defying the apartheid government. He died Thursday at age 95.

Though rare, the lowering of flags for foreign citizens is nothing new.

George W. Bush did it for Pope John Paul II eight years ago. So did Bill Clinton, when former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in the 1990s.

In fact, the practice goes as far back as 1965, when President Lyndon Johnson ordered flags lowered for former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

But not all world leaders get the honor.

This year, Obama issued a statement expressing his condolences for the death of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. But he did not order the flag lowered.

American presidents can issue the executive order at their discretion, the Flag Code states. In general, presidents reserve the honor for major national figures, including governors and foreign dignitaries.

The code says it’s only a guide and it does not offer penalties for noncompliance.


  • Becky says:

    I agree with the sheriff.

  • dcy says:

    I certainly don’t agree with the sheriff. If he wants to make head of state decisions he should run for the presidency. Until he’s elected, he should respect and support our country. smh

  • Tiler says:

    There is precedent for lowering the flag for President Mandela but it is South Carolina so what do you expect?

  • Wes says:

    God bless the sheriff for standing his ground. Mandela never did anything for me or the flag our great nation flies. We used to be the strongest world power until we started bowing down to everyone and their brother. Maybe the American people will think about that next time they elect such a weak leader that has never fought for his country.

  • DRD says:

    Well put Wes- More officials should have the same fortitude as the sheriff

    • gmpenland says:

      Very well put. Also, one must remember he was a criminal. He & his wife Winnie executed many members of the Gov’t.. I seem to remember they used a weapon called a neck tie, in which a bomb was placed around a persons neck then detonated. Sounds rather fitting, pun intended, that the Sherriff will not honor this criminal. Not hating, just saying.

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