SC sheriff won’t lower flag for Mandela -- though honor for foreign dignitaries not new

A South Carolina sheriff is refusing to lower the American flag to honor Nelson Mandela because, though he "did great things for his country," he was not an American.

Pickens County Sheriff Rick Clark announced the decision on Facebook on Friday, saying he would not go along with President Obama's decision to order flags flown at half-staff.

The president cannot force local officials to lower the flag. However, this is hardly the first time a U.S. president has directed that American flags be lowered following the death of a foreign dignitary.

Though the president of the United States more frequently orders that flags be lowered when a revered American dies, Mandela, the former South African president, was one of a handful of non-Americans in the last five decades to be extended the honor.

The U.S. flag was also lowered following the deaths of:

-- Pope John Paul II, in 2005

-- King Hussein, of Jordan, in 1999

-- Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, in 1995

-- Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, in 1981

-- British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, in 1965

-- United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold, in 1961

The funeral for Mandela already is shaping up to be one of the biggest in decades.

The delegation of U.S. dignitaries assembling to honor Nelson Mandela in South Africa includes President Obama and almost all of his living predecessors, as well as lawmakers and other officials.

In South Carolina, Clark said the flag should still be lowered at the U.S. Embassy in South Africa.

He told Fox Carolina that "it's just my simple opinion that the flag should only be lowered to half-staff for Americans who sacrificed for their country."