When Roy Carter noticed that flags were not flying at half-staff in Ashe County after the June massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, he went on “a flag rampage.”
Carter, 72, lowered the flags himself, beginning at the courthouse in Jefferson.
President Obama and N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory had ordered flags on state and federal property be lowered. The orders, however, came on a Sunday when few government employees were at work.
After Carter lowered the flag at the Glendale Springs Volunteer Fire Department, Greg Chatham, the fire chief, raised it back up.
Carter lowered it again. Chatham raised it.
“It was Flag Day so I came by and raised it back up,” Chatham said. He said the department’s board agreed to keep its flag flying in honor of veterans. “It wasn’t that we were disrespecting those folks,” Chatham said.
Carter saw it differently. He is a retired football coach and teacher, well-known throughout Western North Carolina. He served as head coach at East Henderson, Madison, North Wilkes, Andrews and Northwest Ashe high schools, and defensive coordinator at Watauga and Hendersonville High.
“I’m a very inclusive person,” Carter said. “Gay, straight, black, white, it made no difference to me, it was a national tragedy.”
Carter’s son is gay. Todd Carter, 48, moved back to Ashe County in 2011 to be close to family, after four years in Chapel Hill for college followed by 18 years in California. He said he quickly realized that not everyone in this beautiful corner of Western North Carolina shares his family’s outlook.
Shortly after his return, he said he was pumping gas when passersby in a truck yelled: F------ faggot.
“I had not been called that for 20 years,” said Todd Carter, director of development for Hospitality House in Boone, a service agency for people experiencing homelessness and poverty-related crises.
He founded an alliance for LGBTQ youth in the area to provide support. “There are kids that are contemplating suicide,” he said. “They need to see out, active, proud role models.”