Why Are Flags Half Staff? See State Proclamations for July 19

Half-Staff Flags

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Why are flags half-staff this Sunday, July 19? A number of states have proclamations in place from sunrise to sunset on Saturday or Sunday. These are honoring people who have served their state or country and are no longer with us. Many states are also still honoring Rep. John Lewis, who passed away on July 17.  Here’s a look at the people being honored this weekend by lowered flags across the country.


Trump Lowered the Flags to Half Staff on Saturday in Honor of John Lewis & Some States Are Keeping Their Flags Lowered

On Saturday, July 18, flags across the nation were lowered to half staff in honor of John Lewis, who died on July 17. This was a one-day proclamation that ended at sunset.

John Lewis

Trump wrote in his proclamation:

As a mark of respect for the memory and longstanding public service of Representative John Lewis, of Georgia, 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 July 18, 2020.  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 eighteenth day of July, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-fifth.

A number of states will continue to fly their flags at half-staff in honor of Rep. John Lewis, even though the nationwide mandate is over. 

  • Connecticut is lowering flags to half-staff until the day of his interment.
  • New Jersey will continue to fly flags at half-staff through the day of his interment.
  • Rhode Island will fly flags at half-staff in his honor through the day of his interment.
  • Virginia will fly flags at half-staff in his honor through the day of his interment.
  • North Carolina will fly flags at half-staff in his honor through sunset on July 20.
  • Iowa will fly flags at half-staff in his honor through sunset on July 20.
  • Additional states may also be lowering their flags for Lewis and Heavy will add those as they are known.

Additional proclamations are also in place in some states, which is why you may see flags lowered to half staff on Sunday, July 19 too.


States Are Lowering Their Flags in Honor of Those No Longer with Us

In Arizona, flags are flying at half-staff on July 19 in memory of Bryan Boatman, a helicopter pilot who died in a crash on July 8 while helping with the Polles Fire in Gila County.

Illinois state facilities are lowering their flags for the victims of COVID-19. Flags are being flown at half-staff in remembrance of “All who have perished from COVID-19 in the Land of Lincoln,” reads Gov. JB Pritzker’s statement. The proclamation was first declared on April 17.

In Minnesota, flags at state facilities are flown at half staff on the 19th of every month in honor of all the residents who have been lost to COVID-19.

In New Jersey, all state flags and U.S. flags are being flown at half-staff in New Jersey indefinitely in memory of the people who have lost their lives to the coronavirus outbreak. The proclamation was placed by Gov. Philip D. Murphy on April 3 and is still ongoing.

In New York, all flags on state government buildings will fly at half-staff indefinitely while the state is “on pause” due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on April 8.

New York’s website reads: “Flags on state government buildings have been directed to be flown at half-staff in honor of those we have lost to COVID-19 and will remain lowered while New York is on PAUSE.”

Cuomo said in a statement: “Every number is a face and we have lost so many people, many of the front-line workers putting themselves at risk to do the essential functions that we all need for society to go on. In honor of those we have lost to the virus, I am directing all flags to be flown at half-mast. And I continue to urge all New Yorkers to be responsible, adhere to all social distancing protocols and remember the life you are risking may not be your own.”

In North Carolina, flags are lowered through July 19 not only for Rep. Lewis, but also for Reverend C.T. Vivian, who also died on July 17. Vivian, who died at the age of 95, was a Freedom Rider and was the first National Affiliates Director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Vivian was an advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf ordered that all commonwealth flags on commonwealth facilities, public buildings, and public grounds fly at half staff indefinitely in honor of the victims of the 2019 novel coronavirus. The proclamation was put into place on April 8.

In a statement, Wolf said: “Too many Pennsylvanians have lost their lives to COVID-19, and, unfortunately, many more will die. Already we have lost friends, parents, grandparents, and siblings. We have lost first responders. We have lost community members. Each of these Pennsylvanians is irreplaceable. Each deserves to be honored individually for their contributions to our commonwealth, but this cruel disease will not give us a respite to mourn. This virus prevents us from honoring the dead at traditional gatherings. We cannot have funerals, wakes, or sit shiva. I hope this flag lowering provides some solace to the grieving families and friends. And, I hope it serves as a reminder of the reason for the sacrifices Pennsylvanians are making to help their community survive this crisis.”

All residents of Pennsylvania are invited to lower their flags to half staff also.

In Vermont, flags are flown at half-staff on the 19th of every month in memory of those who have been lost to COVID-19.


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.

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