North Carolina Man Quits Rather than Lower Flag for Helms

A North Carolina bureaucrat retired rather than honor Jesse Helms.

Eason, head of a state lab, retired at 51.L.F. Eason III gave up the only job he’d ever had rather than lower a flag to honor former U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms.

Eason, a 29-year veteran of the state Department of Agriculture, instructed his staff at a small Raleigh lab not to fly the U.S. or North Carolina flags at half-staff Monday, as called for in a directive to all state agencies by Gov. Mike Easley.

When a superior ordered the lab to follow the directive, Eason decided to retire rather than pay tribute to Helms. After several hours’ delay, one of Eason’s employees hung the flags at half-staff.

The brouhaha began late Sunday night, when Eason e-mailed eight of his employees in the state standards lab, which calibrates measuring equipment used on things as widely varied as gasoline and hamburgers.  “Regardless of any executive proclamation, I do not want the flags at the North Carolina Standards Laboratory flown at half staff to honor Jesse Helms any time this week,” Eason wrote just after midnight, according to e-mail messages released in response to a public records request. He told his staff that he did not think it was appropriate to honor Helms because of his “doctrine of negativity, hate, and prejudice” and his opposition to civil rights bills and the federal Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Retiring in protest is, of course, his right as an American. Ordering civil servants to disobey the lawful order of the Governor?  Not so much.

One can understand antipathy to Helms.  Regardless, however, Helms is entitled to this treatment as a former United States Senator. Period.  Goodness, Richard Nixon got a state funeral and had flags lowered for a month — the protocol for the death of United States Presidents, sitting or past — despite having to resign in the face of sure criminal charges.  Helms, so far as I’m aware, broke no laws.

Amusingly, it turns out that Eason was spared having to quit before being eligible for a retirement pension:

A registered Democrat who frequently votes a split ticket, he said he had no problems lowering the flag for former Sen. Terry Sanford or President Reagan. But he remembers wondering whether he would be willing to lower the flag after President Nixon’s death. He never had to make that decision, since it rained both days.

Lucky for him they apparently haven’t heard of all-weather flags in the  Tarheel State.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. DA says:

    Lucky for him they apparently haven’t heard of all-weather flags in the Palmetto State.

    The Palmetto State is South Carolina. North Carolina is the Tar Heel State or the Old North State.

  2. Triumph says:

    This guy is a typical no-good liberal. If it hadn’t been for Helms, the crappy NC Standards Lab wouldn’t even be in business.

    Scum.

  3. John Burgess says:

    I held Jesse in disdain, not only for his politics, but also the fact that he a) forced me to pay DC income tax when it took Foreign Service Officers outside the exemption offered other commissioned officers of the USG (i.e., military) when domiciled in DC concomitant to being assigned to headquarters, and b) killed off the US Information Agency (aided and abetted by Warren Christopher).

    But he was still worthy of professional respect as a US Senator and, for a time, Chairman of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

    I had a hard time convincing co-workers at State (where USIA ended up) that they needed to cover his statements, even if they were dumb, even if they didn’t agree, simply because he was Chairman of the Committee. Like his politics or not, he is/was owed a certain level of respect. He was elected to his position; Civil Service employees are not.

  4. Tlaloc says:

    I have no love for Helms but he wasn’t pure evil. He was wrong, very wrong, a lot. He was also right sometimes. Steve Aftergood of the FAS’s Secrecy project (which looks at government secrecy issues) pointed out that Helms had actually done a fair amount to fight government secrecy. Now some of that was probably partisan, but it was still right.

  5. James Joyner says:

    The Palmetto State is South Carolina. North Carolina is the Tar Heel State or the Old North State.

    I knew that! Well, at least the Tar Heel part; never heard the “Old North State” moniker before.

  6. Brian says:

    Wow, he really showed ’em. As a result of his making a point that no one will notice he is now over 50, out of work and the two newest bullets on his resume are “exceeds expectations in the area of inflexibility” and “really, really bad at cost / benefit analysis.”

    My question is: Do all supervisors in NC State Govt visit all of their subordinate facilities to check the flags, or did someone in his department rat him out?

  7. Eric Edwards says:

    Good for the state that this clown is gone! He learned the hard way that his personal politics do not trump the dictates of his bosses; if the governor tells you to fly the flags at half mast, do it. You don’t get to create your own rules for your own ends.

    And North Carolina was called “The Old North State” for much longer than “The Tar Heel State”, and we have obviously heard of all weather flags. Don’t throw stones at us because of the actions of this pompous, self serving hack!

  8. Tlaloc says:

    Wow, he really showed ’em. As a result of his making a point that no one will notice he is now over 50, out of work and the two newest bullets on his resume are “exceeds expectations in the area of inflexibility” and “really, really bad at cost / benefit analysis.”

    I guess you didn’t read down to the part that said:

    Amusingly, it turns out that Eason was spared having to quit before being eligible for a retirement pension

    i.e. he *is* eligible for a retirement pension this time around. I can’t count the number of “career limiting statements” I’d make if I knew I had a cushy pension waiting for me on the other side of the exit interview.

    Seriously.

  9. edith englund says:

    Mr. Eason III displayed ‘civil disobedience’…and there is nothing wrong with that. Perhaps living in a state that elects a bigot to represent them in the United States Senate was something a democrat there couldn’t stomach any longer. Who ever wrote that the state gives you a cushy retirement knows nothing about the poor retirement programs of state employees… Kudos to Mr. Eason … Hitler hated the Jews…should the Germans have flown their flags at half mast when he died? If the governor tells you to go jump off a bridge…would you do it? I think many of the bloggers on this forum would…so much for good sense.