updated 7/9/2008 3:56:19 PM ET 2008-07-09T19:56:19

A longtime North Carolina state employee has chosen to retire instead of lowering flags to honor former Republican Sen. Jesse Helms.

U.S. and state flags have been flying at half-staff since Gov. Mike Easley ordered them lowered after Helms died Friday.

L.F. Eason III, 51, told his staff at the state Standards Laboratory to ignore the directive. The News & Observer of Raleigh reports that Eason sent workers an e-mail saying he didn't think it was appropriate to lower the flags because of Helms' "doctrine of negativity, hate, and prejudice."

Eason, who had worked for 29 years at the Department of Agriculture, requested the option to retire Monday after his superiors ordered the flags be lowered. Eason said he could not in good conscience honor Helms.

Flags at the lab have since been lowered to half-staff.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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