A longtime state employee has chosen to retire instead of lowering flags to half-staff to honor former Republican Sen. Jesse Helms.

Gov. Mike Easley had ordered all U.S. and state flags lowered after Helms died July 4. But L.F. Eason III told his staff to ignore the directive at the state Standards Laboratory in Raleigh.

Eason said in e-mails he didn't think it was appropriate to lower the flags because of Helms' "doctrine of negativity, hate, and prejudice." Eason said Helms "voted against or blocked every civil right issue" that came before Congress.

Eason requested the option to retire Monday after his superiors ordered the flags be lowered. Eason said he could not in good conscience honor Helms.

The 51-year-old Eason had worked with the Department of Agriculture for 29 years.