Why are flags half-staff on Friday, November 1? Although there are no national half-staff proclamations from President Donald Trump, a number of states have proclamations in place from sunrise to sunset. These are honoring people who have served their state or country and are no longer with us. Here’s a look at the people being honored this weekend by lowered flags across the country.
States Are Lowering Their Flags in Honor of Those No Longer with Us
In Virginia, the state flags will be flown at half-staff for 30 days, from October 29 to November 28, in honor of Gov. Gerald Baliles. He died at the age of 79 after a battle with cancer. He served as Virginia’s governor from 1986 to 1990. Gov. Ralph Northam issued the following statement:
I am deeply sorry to hear of the passing of Governor Gerald Baliles.
As the 65th Governor of Virginia, he understood and valued the role government can play in improving citizens’ lives. He transformed Virginia’s transportation infrastructure, signed Virginia into the Chesapeake Bay agreement under which we still operate today, and focused on expanding access to higher education, among many other accomplishments.
Governor Baliles fought for rural Virginians, promoted civil discourse, and was the epitome of a true public servant.
While his accomplishments in office were, and remain, impressive, I will miss him for the kind ear and the sound advice he was always willing to give to me. Pam and I send our deepest sympathies to his wife, children, and loved ones.
I have directed that Virginia state flags be flown at half-staff in Governor Baliles’ honor for the next 30 days.”
In Arkansas, flags are flying half-staff from October 29 until the day of internment in honor of John Winfield Walker, who was born in 1937. He passed away on October 28 and served as a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives for eight years. He was a prominent civil rights attorney. You can read the proclamation from Gov. Asa Hutchinson below or at this link.
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 former Gov. William Milliken served in office, WHTC reported. Flags should be back at full-staff on November 2. Milliken is Michigan’s longest-serving governor. He was a combat soldier in World War II and received a Purple Heart. He died on October 18, 2019.
Whitmer said in a statement: “Gov. Milliken was a true statesman who led our state with integrity and honor. He had a unique ability to bring people from both sides of the aisle together for the betterment of Michigan. I extend my deepest and most heartfelt condolences to Gov. Milliken’s family for their loss.”
In Ohio, state and national flags will be half-staff from October 22 through sunset on the day of his funeral on November 2 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. Walker’s funeral is scheduled for November 2 at 2 p.m. at New Leaf United Methodist Church. His body will be returned home on October 29 and a procession will accompany him to the Marcy Funeral Home. Visitation will be November 1 at the New Leaf United Methodist Church from 2-4 p.m and 6-9 p.m, then November 2 from 12-2 p.m.
In Twin Falls, Idaho, state and U.S. flags are half staff from October 28 to November 1 to honor former Twin Falls Fire Chief Ron Clark. This proclamation is for public facilities in Twin Falls, but anyone is invited to lower their flags in Clark’s honor too.
In Florida, U.S. and state flags will be flying at half-staff at the Orange County Courthouse in Orland, the Orlando City Hall, Winter Park City Hall, and the Orange County Administration Building. They will be flying half-staff from sunrise to sunset today, by proclamation of Gov. Ron DeSantis, to honor U.S. Rep. Lou Frey. Frey died on October 14 at the age of 85. He was a Representative of Florida’s 5th District. In a 2013 interview, Frey told Spectrum News that he had no money the first time he ran and was a Republican in a Democratic district, and had no idea he could win. After his service, he returned to Central Florida. He then established the Lou Frey Institute at UCF.
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.