Herbert O. Reid Sr. can fill a room like nobody's business. The elegant crowd of more than 700 in the ballroom of the Sheraton Washington last night turned out to honor the eminent Washington attorney, former dean and professor of law at Howard University for more than 40 years and corporation counsel for the District of Columbia -- among many other titles. Underneath the ensuing oratory and all the lovely black ties and pretty glitter gowns, what was most obvious at this dinner tribute was the overriding sense of admiration and affection from his friends, family and colleagues.

The gala was also an opportunity to announce the establishment of the Herbert O. Reid Scholarship Fund at the Howard University School of Law. Guests paid $100 per ticket, and were treated to a menu including beef tips with bearnaise sauce and new potatoes and an ice cream peach pound cake.

Just who did the eating? There were elected officials of Washington, Maryland and Virginia (but Gov. Doug Wilder was a no-show). There were lawyers and judges, and University of the District of Columbia staff and trustees, as well as Howard trustees and law school faculty, staff and students, present and former. There was even a former Redskins quarterback.

"Well," opined Doug Williams, "I think, number one, we're honoring a guy that deserves it. This isn't just a social event that happened to fall during the time of the {Congressional} Black Caucus. A lot of people here won't ever get a night like this. They came here for Herb Reid, to show they care. That's why I'm here too."

And is there life after football for Doug Williams? "I had a life. Then I had football. But that was just a pit stop for me," he said. "I'm starting my second life now," as a sports announcer for Black Entertainment Television.

D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, a longtime friend and personal client of Reid, called him "a product of a proud race of people" and "a tough, dedicated, brilliant professor" who'd stuck with him through the latter's "darkest hours." When Barry said of the evening, "I don't want this to be a eulogy," there was a hush. Reid has been in failing health and spent the evening in a wheelchair.

The seventysomething honoree looked a little tired, but overall pretty good. Dapper with his peach-colored carnation boutonniere and refined with half-rimmed eyeglasses, Reid was the picture of both civility and smarts. "It's an important night," he said, "because we're bringing together a group of people who have not been brought together before. And because we're establishing a scholarship fund."

The praise he was receiving overwhelmed him some, though. "I'm kind of flooded by this recognition and looking at my career. And by the possibilities it presents for Howard. Our orientation and bearings here give us a new look at old things. ... I'm talking about the importance of {the races} living together and reacting together. About coming together for our group's identity and purpose. To express group power and achieve a balance. Whites and blacks must live together, but whites must cease the one-way track for the beauty of the relationship {to exist}."

Carlene Reid Funn said of her father: "He's always been commited to doing what's right, especially for black people. ... It had to do with dignity and respect. He cared." So was she inspired to follow in her father's legal footsteps? "No," she laughed, "I escaped!"