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Texas Fold ’em

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See updated information about changes to the Texas flag code here.

A recurring question that shows up on every web site that writes about flags, or sell flags is this:  How do you fold a Texas flag?

The Texas Flag Code is silent on this, so there’s no help to be found there. I should mention that the U.S. Flag Code does not tell how to fold the Stars and Stripes either. The origins of our much-beloved tri-cornered fold is a mystery. Last year I speculated (with little scholarship) on this topic and wrote about it here

Recently the question came up again to NAVA members (North American Vexillological Association), and I shared information I’d received last year about folding the Texas flag. But it was wrong, and I mean 180 degrees wrong.

I had been told that the Texas House Sergeant at Arms folded the state flag in the usual triangle shape, finishing on the white stripe, so it was an all-white bundle.  Wrong, and I had failed to do my homework.

Determined to find the correct answer and looking for a place to start, I typed “Texas flag” into the Google search engine, clicked on “images” and took off. At 435 images into 910,000 returns, I found a very important photo. Taken at the graveside service for the funeral of former Texas governor Ann Richards, it showed seven Texas Department of Public Safety troopers. They had just removed the Lone Star flag from the governor’s casket, and were folding it.

Surely I thought, the pall bearers at Gov. Richards’s funeral, would have specific instruction on how to fold the Texas flag, so I telephoned the public information office at the Texas DPS in Austin and explained what I wanted. I wanted to know how those troopers had folded the flag.

It took a few days to get the answer, and it was prefaced with, “The Texas Flag Code doesn’t say how to fold the state flag … .” But one of the honor guard/pall bearers from Gov. Richards’s funeral sent the message that they had folded the flag in the traditional triangular fold, by folding the red stripe to the inside with the white stripe on the outside, then folding toward the blue end, finishing with just a bit of the white star showing. Proof One.

Next I called the office of the Texas (capitol building) House Sergeant at Arms. An intern there told me, “The Texas flag code doesn’t say how to fold the flag, but … .” I laughed (he didn’t.)  He told me that they do indeed fold the Texas flag in the traditional triangle, ending with the blue and showing part of the star, and that they packaged the flags in triangular-shaped boxes for mailing. Proof Two.

The intern in the Sergeant at Arms office gave me the name of an aide in Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s office who, in addition to his other duties fills the role of flag advisor, so I called the aide and explained my quest. He told me, “The Texas flag code doesn’t say how to fold the flag, but … .” We both had a good laugh, and he said that he gets phone calls every day from people asking how to fold the Texas flag.

The Governor’s aide said that lacking specific legislative instructions, the Governor’s office has traditionally folded the Texas flag into the standard triangle, with the blue end showing a bit of white star. Proof Three.

There it is. The Texas flag code gives no instructions for folding the flag, but the consensus from three Texas government offices is to fold the flag as a triangle, by folding the red stripe to the inside, then folding the white stripe down to to the blue end, so it finishes with a bit of the white Lone Star showing.

This morning my husband and I folded a 3’x5′ Texas flag three ways: all white, all red, and blue with a bit of star showing. It takes a lot of practice to make a tight right triangle, regardless which color you want it to be. Regulation Texas flags are stubby at a 2:3 ratio, while regulation U.S. flags are much longer, with a 1:1.9 ratio.

Most flag companies sell flags in 3’x5′, 4’x6′, 5’x8′ and so on. These are not regulation sizes but the are now the industry standard. Folding a 3’x5′ flag into a pretty triangular shape is not easy. It’s too short, and the folds do not come out even; you have to make a short fold first, then begin the triangle. With a regulation Texas flag in that 2:3 ratio, it would be very difficult to make a tight right triangle.

Casket flags are extra long, which makes them easier to fold. And the honor guards who do it are very good, and have practiced so their action is smooth and perfect. You really can’t stop and start over at a funeral. So if you are frustrated at trying to fold the American flag or any state flag, if you are teaching Scouts, or kids at school or at home, just remember that unless you have a regulation size flag, it is more difficult to fold a shorter flag, and you have to make some adjustments at the beginning so the end comes out right.

As for folding the Texas flag, there’s no right or wrong way, but you’ll be ok if you fold it like the state offices do.

The above photograph was taken by Larry Hendrick on the beach at San Luis Pass, on the western end of Galveston Island on the Texas coast. I was holding the flag pole, but the wind was blowing so hard, it bent the flag pole.

4 thoughts on “Texas Fold ’em

  1. Thanx for the research — I’ve always wondered the same thing.

  2. The Texas Legislature passed the “Texas Fold ‘Em” bill in 2009. It adopts the flag-folding protocol practiced by the Texas Senate and House of Representatives. Named after the House Sgt-at-Arms who developed the folding method, the legislation was crafted after a Nava member in the Senate responded to a query about the subject.

    1. Thank you for the information, South Texan! I will research the particulars of this bill and update the article. Best Wishes, Deborah

  3. […] October on The Daily Flag, I wrote an article titled Texas Fold ‘Em, about folding the Texas flag. The gist of the article was that there was not an official way to […]

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