Half-Staff or Full-Staff? What’s the Proper Flag Protocol ?
Am I the only one who has noticed lately that American Flags in the Quincy area are being flown lately at full and half-staff on the same days? Drive one block and there is a flag at half-staff. Turn the corner and another flag is at full staff. It was always my understanding that the flag could only be lowered to half-staff by an order of the President of the United States. So I did some research and found out that I was right, with one exception. The President is the only one who can make that directive except for whenever a present or former official of State Government dies. Then the Governor of that State can direct that the United States Flag be flown at half-staff in respect to their memory. It seems that many people just aren’t aware of the protocol regarding the lowering of the American Flag.
Even a recent Attorney General didn’t know the protocol as former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno ordered the American Flag flown at half-staff on all U.S. Department of Justice buildings, in honor of several DEA agents who had died. While her intentions were good, she had no authority to do so. So in case you are wondering, here are the guidelines for lowering the American Flag to half-staff status.
Upon the death of great individuals or current or former government officials, the President of the United States can direct that the flag be flown from the half-staff position "as a mark of respect to their memory." When respect is thus shown upon the death of current or former United States government officials, the flag is flown at half-staff according to the following:
- 30 Days from the death of the President or a former President
- 10 Days from the day of death of:
- The Vice President
- A sitting or former Supreme Court Chief Justice
- The Speaker of the House of Representatives
- From the day of death to the day of Internment of:
- An Associate Justice of the Supreme Court
- The Secretary of an Executive or Military Department
- A Former Vice President
- The Governor of a State, territory, or possession of the United States
- On the day of death and the following day for a Member of Congress
Anyone who is flying the American Flag at half-staff is doing so with good intentions, but our flag should be flying in a uniform fashion throughout the land and not differently from one block to the next. Hopefully, this information will help clear up any misunderstandings regarding the half-staff flying procedures.