WHNS in Greenville first reported that Pickens County Sheriff Rick Clark stated refusal to fly U.S. flags at half-staff in remembrance of Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa who passed away one day earlier on December 5 at the age of 95.
“Nelson Mandela did great things for his country and was a brave man but he was not an AMERICAN!!!” Clark posted on his Facebook page.
On the day of Mandela’s passing, President Obama issued a proclamation that “the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, December 9, 2013.”
Instead, Sheriff Clark posted he would lower the flag on December 6 in remembrance of an unidentified deputy who died in the line of duty, and on December 7 in honor of the 72nd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. His office’s U.S. flag would be restored to full-mast display the next day, however, he stated on Facebook.
His lack of compliance is not a legal violation, however. Presidential proclamations are suggestions and statements of policy that have no legal enforcement, and are typically issued in ceremonial formats.
Clark’s comment has since been removed, but today he posted thanks to the public for support of his statement, as well as praise for Mandela.
“I urge you to read about President Mandela over the next few days of mourning and be inspired for public service for your community and the nation as he was.”
The last foreign dignitary to be honored by the U.S. with its flag at half-staff nationwide and at all territories was Pope John Paul II following his death in 2005.
Clark was first elected sheriff of Pickens County in 2012.