Why Are Flags Half Staff Today? See State Proclamations for Oct. 24

Half-Staff Flags

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Why are flags half-staff on Thursday, October 24? Although there are no national half-staff proclamations today from President Donald Trump, a number of state have proclamations in place for the day from sunrise to sunset. Here’s a look at the people being honored today by lowered flags across the country.

For flags half-staff information for October 25, please see Heavy’s new story here.


New Jersey & Other States Will Be Honoring Elijah Cummings This Week

A Presidential Proclamation declared that flags would fly half-staff nationally for Cummings from October 17 through sunset October 18. Although that national proclamation is over, some states are still lowering their flags in honor of Cummings.

New Jersey has ordered that flags will fly at half-staff from sunrise October 22 until sunset on Friday, October 25 in honor of Rep. Elijah Cummings. Friday is the day of Cummings’ funeral and burial.

The full proclamation from New Jersey reads:

WHEREAS, United States Representative Elijah Eugene Cummings was born a son of sharecroppers on January 18, 1951, in Baltimore, Maryland, and received his high school diploma from Baltimore City College in 1969; and

WHEREAS, Representative Cummings graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Howard University, where he was student government president, with a degree in political science; and

WHEREAS, Representative Cummings graduated from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1976 and practiced law for nearly 20 years; and

WHEREAS, Representative Cummings was elected to the House of Delegates in the Maryland General Assembly in 1982 and served for 13 years, during which time he became the youngest chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland and the first African-American in Maryland history to be named speaker pro tempore; and

WHEREAS, Representative Cummings was elected to the United States House of Representatives in a special election in 1996 to represent Maryland’s 7th Congressional District and was re-elected 11 times, serving for over 23 years; and

WHEREAS, Representative Cummings served as chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus from 2003 to 2005; and

WHEREAS, Representative Cummings served as the ranking member of the powerful House Oversight and Reform Committee from 2011 to 2019; and

WHEREAS, Representative Cummings served as Chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee from January 2019 until his passing and, in that capacity, worked fairly and effectively to hold the executive branch accountable for its policies and practices; and

WHEREAS, Representative Cummings advanced many important causes during his tenure in Congress, including civil rights, stricter gun safety laws, help for those suffering from drug addiction, and increased funding for public education and Head Start programming; and

WHEREAS, Representative Cummings was a strong advocate for Baltimore and worked to heal the city after the uprisings following the death of Freddie Gray, a young Black man who died in police custody; and

WHEREAS, Representative Cummings was a beloved husband, father, and brother, whose presence will be missed by his family, his friends, his colleagues, the people of Maryland, and the nation whom he served so well; and

WHEREAS, it is with immense sadness that we mourn Representative Cummings’s passing, and extend our deepest sympathy to his family, friends, and colleagues; and

WHEREAS, it is appropriate to honor the exemplary character, outstanding achievements, and cherished memory of Representative Cummings, and to mark his passing;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, PHILIP D. MURPHY, Governor of the State of New Jersey, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and by the Statutes of this State, do hereby ORDER and DIRECT:

1. The flag of the United States of America and the flag of New Jersey shall be flown at half-staff at all State departments, offices, agencies, and instrumentalities during appropriate hours from Tuesday, October 22, 2019, to Friday, October 25, 2019, in recognition and mourning of a tireless public servant, United States Representative Elijah E. Cummings.

2. This Order shall take effect immediately.

In Maryland, the U.S. flag flew half-staff through October 18, but Maryland’s flag is flying half-staff through the day of Cummings’ internment on Friday, October 25. Gov. Larry Hogan’s proclamation for Maryland reads as follows:

This is to advise that Governor Larry Hogan ordered the United States Flag lowered to half-staff effective immediately until sunset, tomorrow, Friday, October 18, 2019. Title 4 of the United States Code states that the United States Flag shall be flown at half-staff on the day of death and the following day for a member of Congress. Furthermore, Governor Larry Hogan ordered the Maryland State Flag lowered to half-staff effective immediately until sunset on the day of interment (not yet known).

These actions are in honor of United States Congressman Elijah Cummings who was a fierce advocate for civil rights and for Maryland for more than three decades. Congressman Cummings leaves behind an incredible legacy of fighting for Baltimore City and working to improve people’s lives. He was a passionate and dedicated public servant whose countless contributions made our state and our country better. Congressman Cummings passed away on this morning, Thursday, October 17, 2019.”

Other states may also follow suit and issue their own proclamations for Cummings in the coming days.


Some States Are Lowering Their Flags in Honor of Others

In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered that U.S. and Michigan flags be flown at half staff in the State Capitol Complex and in public buildings and grounds in Michigan starting October 18 until November 1 to honor each year that Milliken served in office, WHTC reported.  Flags should be back at full-staff on November 2.

In Ohio, state and national flags will be half-staff from October 22 through sunset on the day of his funeral to honor Corporal Thomas Cole Walker. Flags will be half-staff on all public buildings and grounds throughout Ashtabula County, the Ohio Statehouse, the Vern Riffe Center, and the Rhodes State Officer Tower. Walker was killed during a training exercise in Fort Stewart in Georgia. He was only 22.

In California, flags are flying half-staff through October 26 to honor El Dorado County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Ishmael. He was shot and killed. The state proclamation from Gov. Gavin Newsom reads:

Jennifer and I were terribly saddened to learn that Deputy Ishmael was shot and killed this morning while courageously serving and protecting the people of El Dorado County. Our thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones, friends, and colleagues during this painful time.

Deputy Ishmael, 37, was fatally shot today while responding to a call for service in Somerset, CA. A deputy with another county was on a ride-along with Deputy Ishmael during the call and was injured in the shooting. The deputy has been released from the hospital.

Deputy Ishmael was a four-year veteran of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office. He previously worked for the Placerville Police Department.

Deputy Ishmael is survived by his wife and three daughters.

In honor of Deputy Ishmael, flags at all state buildings will be flown at half-staff.”

In Washington, both state and national flags are flying half-staff until sunset on October 24 in memory of Christian Johnson, who died from injuries in the Spring Coulee Fire on October 2. Gov. Inslee’s proclamation reads:

Governor Inslee is deeply saddened by the death of Christian Johnson, Assistant Fire Chief for Okanogan County Fire District #3, and directs that Washington State and United States flags at all state agency facilities be lowered to half-staff in his memory on Thursday, October 24, 2019. Assistant Fire Chief Johnson, 55, passed away on October 2, 2019, from injuries sustained in the Spring Coulee Fire, south of Okanogan.

Flags should remain at half-staff until close of business or sunset on Thursday, October 24, 2019.

Please notify your staff and all of your field offices and facilities around the state.

Other government entities, citizens and businesses are encouraged to join this recognition.

A celebration of life service will be held on Thursday, October 24, at 1:00 pm, at the Okanogan County Fairgrounds Agriplex.”

In Iowa, flags will be flying at half-staff on Thursday through sunset on October 25 to honor Jo Ann Zimmerman. The proclamation from Gov. Kim Reynolds reads:

Gov. Kim Reynolds ordered all flags in Iowa to be lowered to half-staff from sunrise on Thursday, October 24th to sunset on Friday, October 25th in honor and remembrance of Jo Ann Zimmerman, Iowa’s first female lieutenant governor elected in 1986.

“Jo Ann blazed a trail for others to follow,” said Gov. Reynolds. “As a nurse, school board member, legislator and Lt. Governor, she led with a caring heart and with a true passion for public service. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family and loved ones.”

Flags will be at half-staff on the State Capitol Building and on flag displays in the Capitol Complex. Flags will also be half-staff on all public buildings, grounds and facilities throughout the state.

Individuals, businesses, schools, municipalities, counties and other government subdivisions are encouraged to fly the flags at half-staff for the same length of time.”

On October 27, state flags will fly half-staff in Pennsylvania in memory of the people killed in the Tree of Life synagogue shooting.


Flag Half-Staff Traditions

It’s customary to only display the American flag from sunrise to sunset, unless the flag is well illuminated overnight. In those cases, the flag might be displayed 24 hours a day. A number of holidays call for the U.S. flags to be lowered to half-staff every year. In addition, the President of the United States may order a proclamation for the flags to fly half-staff when someone of prominence dies or when there is a national tragedy. State governors may also call for national flags to be flown at half-staff in their state when a present or former government official passes away.

If you’re wondering about the term half-mast vs. half-staff, in the United States half-mast refers to flags being lowered on a ship, while half-staff refers to a pole on a building. However, outside the United States, the more commonly used term is actually half-mast. The terms tend to be used interchangeably in common vernacular.

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


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