On Monday, North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley ordered all flags at government agencies throughout the state to be flow at half staff in honor of former Sen. Jesse Helms, and L.F. Eason III — a laboratory manager in the state Department of Agriculture — refused to comply with the directive at the facility he supervised.
His superiors then gave him a choice: Eason could change his mind or he could retire from the only job he’d ever held, effective immediately. Eason chose to resign:
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.
While I have a hard time bringing myself to say something bad about the dead, I appreciate a certain degree of symmetry here. For 16 days, Helms — standing alone — manage to thwart the passage of a holiday honoring the memory of Dr. King. For most of the time that it mattered, Eason managed to delay an action honoring Helms. How’s that for a tribute to Senator No?