Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
From the start, it was a game of social logistics.
The invitations began arriving three weeks ago for the dinner tribute to William Lucy, the highest-ranking black in organized labour.
Not only were the events scheduled for the same time Wednesday at opposite ends of town, but for many in the liberal, largely black group that supports civil rights, it presented a test of loyalty.
Lucy, 43, is international secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, and a popular and important figure. on the other hand, the Urban League has gained added stature in recent months as a watchdog of President Carter's urban policy.
Adding to the dilemma was the fact that Benjamin Hooks, the NAACP, and Vernon Jordan, the national director of the Urban League, both are spellbinding orators and were the featured speakers, one at each dinner.
"It was just a coincidence,"said Kent T. Cushenberry of IBM, chairman of the League's dinner at the Washington Hilton, a memorial to Whitney M. Young. "We had communicated with the other organizations, and both dinners had been planned to the extent that they couldn't be canceled. I'm upset by the coincidence."
Yvonne Price, chairman of the Lucy dinner at the Hyatt Regency, and also a board member of the League, sighed, "It was just one of the those things we had to live with. But since both dinners are sold out, it proves there areenough of us to fill both halls."
Some guests made a reluctact choice, buying tickets for both events, but attending only one. Others arrived at one breathless and late for dinner after having popped into the other for cocktails.
About 1,200 attended the Lucy tribute and 1,500 the Urban League dinner.
At the Urban League dinner, businesswoman Flaxie Pinkett, one of five local honorees, termed the conflict "regrettable. It broke friend of Bill Lucyis a very special friend of mine. But I think the League has a following that I don't think any other dinner will disturb."
Like many of the guests, Eddie Williams, president of the Joint Center for Political Studies, had received an invitation to both events but decided on the Lucydinner because he had made the commitment first. James Dyke, special assistant to Walter Mondale, gave equal time to both receptions, but said he was skipping dinner to go home and work on Carter's urban policy package scheduled to be presented Monday.
Carter's urban policy was a maintopic at the League dinner, where Jordan, in a keynote speech, called on Carter to make the cities the new frontier and put, among other things, nearly $7 billion in general revenue-sharing funds into urban revitalization programs in distressed cities.
Clearly, and predicatably, politicans were the most agile criss-crossers of the evening. Rep Parren J. Mitchell (D.-Md.), who also was honored by the Legues (along with businessman John Hechinger, Armistead L. Boothe and Etta Horn) arrived late after making an appearance at the Lucy salute. Mitchell was upset because Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin at first refused, and at the last minute agreed to meet with the Congressional Black Caucus Wednesday. By then, Mitchell said, it was too late to convene the group.
Marion Barry, a contender for may-or of the District, spent a short time at both receptions, leaving to address a women's meeting. Mayor Walter Washington, who has not officially announced whether he will run for reelection, spoke at the Lucy dinner and proclaimed a day in honor of his old friend. But it was the third likely candidate for mayor, Sterling Tucker,who won Wednesday's attendance award. Tucker attended a dinner for retiring Federal Reserve Board chairman Arthur Burns, a reception for Begin, and arrived at the League dinner, shaking hands.