South Carolina sheriff refuses to lower flag for Mandela

CHARLESTON, South Carolina Mon Dec 9, 2013 6:41pm EST

Nelson Mandela is pictured on a display screen as people attend a tribute service for him at the Christian Cultural Center in the Brooklyn area of New York December 8, 2013. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Nelson Mandela is pictured on a display screen as people attend a tribute service for him at the Christian Cultural Center in the Brooklyn area of New York December 8, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Eduardo Munoz

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CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - The U.S. flag flew high outside a sheriff's office in South Carolina on Monday in defiance of an order from President Barack Obama to lower all flags in memory of the late South African leader Nelson Mandela.

Pickens County Sheriff Rick Clark said he believed the lowering of the flag to half-staff was a tribute that should be reserved for U.S. citizens.

"To show a sign of respect for what Nelson Mandela's done, I have no problem with lowering it in South Africa, in their country," Clark told a local television station.

"But in our country, it should be the people, in my opinion, who have sacrificed for our country."

On Friday, the sheriff's flag flew at half-staff in honor of a South Carolina law enforcement officer who was killed in the line of duty and it remained lowered through Pearl Harbor Day on Saturday.

The flag was raised to the top of the mast on Monday, however, and the sheriff's office said Clark would have no further comment beyond what he told a local TV reporter.

Obama ordered flags to be flown at half staff until sunset Monday.

South Carolina, in the heart of the old Deep South, has a troubled history when it comes to race relations and civil rights.

Governor Nikki Haley, a Republican and daughter of Indian Sikh immigrants, posted a tribute to Mandela on her Facebook page last Thursday.

Some commentators on the Facebook page later responded by calling Mandela everything from an "evil man" and "devout Marxist" to "a socialist goon."

Sheriff Clark was far more respectful in the specific comments about Mandela he made on his own Facebook page.

"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," Clark wrote.

(Reporting by Harriet McLeod; Editing by Tom Brown, Andrew Hay and Lisa Shumaker)

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Comments (94)
avliska wrote:
I’m just asking because I don’t know, but, in the just-observed JFK 50th, did any other countries lower their flags back in November 1963? Have there been precedents?

Dec 09, 2013 5:44pm EST  --  Report as abuse
gregbrew56 wrote:
Would Clark have done the same under Bush?

Dec 09, 2013 5:57pm EST  --  Report as abuse
ballsy wrote:
I agree with the Sheriff. No need to lower flags for non-citizens.

Dec 09, 2013 6:16pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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