Why Are the Flags at Half-Staff? They’re Lowered for Elijah Cummings

flag half staff

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Why are United States flags flying at half-staff today? You’ll be seeing U.S. flags at government buildings across the country flying at half-staff through sunset on October 18, 2019, in honor of Rep. Elijah Cummings, who died. Some states are also flying their flags at half-staff at state buildings too in honor of him and for other reasons. Read on to learn more details about why the flags are lowered today.

As a note: Although many people refer to the flags being lowered as “half-mast,” that term in the United States actually refers to flags being lowered on a ship versus half-staff, which refers to a pole on a building. Outside of the United States, such as in Canada and the UK, the common term is half-mast and not half-staff. So you may hear people referring to the flags as being half-mast anyway. Today, the terms are frequently used interchangeably in common speech.


Flags Are Flying Half-Staff in Memory  of Rep. Elijah Cummings

Elijah Cummings

GettyElijah Cummings

On October 17, President Donald Trump issued a proclamation that flags would fly half-staff immediately through sunset on October 18. Cummings, the Democratic representative for Maryland’s 7th Congressional District, died at the age of 68 on October 17. He was the chair of the House Oversight Committee and he was a civil rights attorney before becoming a politician. He died of complications from health problems he had for a long time, according to his wife.

You can read the Presidential Proclamation below.

As a mark of respect for the memory and longstanding public service of Representative Elijah E. Cummings, of Maryland, I hereby order, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, 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 through October 18, 2019.  I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half‑staff for the same period at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this seventeenth day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand nineteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-fourth.

Title 4 of the United States Code states that U.S. flags should be flown half-staff on the day a member of Congress dies and the next day.


States May Also Fly Their Flags at Half-Staff in His Memory or for Other Reasons on October 17 & 18

You may also see flags flying half-mast at state buildings and other buildings too in his honor over the coming days.

In Maryland, flags are flying half-staff in Cummings’ honor from October 17 until the day of his internment, Gov. Larry Hogan proclaimed.

In North Carolina, flags will also fly half-staff on October 18 in honor of U.S. Army Pvt. Andrew McLean. He died on September 10 while preparing for a physical training exercise. He was part of the 3rd Battalion 60th Infantry Regiment, WLTX19 reported.

In Hawaii, flags are also flying half-staff through October 18 in honor of former Maui County Council Chairman Danny Mateo. Mateo died on September 24 at the age of 68 and had served as a County Council member for 12 years.

In Indiana, flags are also flying half-staff on October 17 in honor of former Adjutant General George Buskirk. His funeral is Thursday, October 17.

READ NEXT: How & When Will a Replacement for Rep. Elijah Cummings Be Chosen?