When Virginia Gov. Mills E. Godwin recounted his administration's achievements three weeks ago during his state of the commonwealth message, he said the state had made "continued progress" in the hiring of minorities for state government jobs.
He noted that 12 per cent of the 26,000 professionals positions in the state government, and almost 21 per cent of all positions, now staffed by minority group members, most of them black. Blacks comprise about 18.5 per cent of the state's population, according to the 1970 census.
Figures compiled by the state's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission show, however, that half of the 3,200 minority group members who hold prefessional positions in the state government are administrators, professors and specialists at state colleges. A total of 725 of the minority group professionals work at three state schools that traditionally have been considered black institutions.
The number of minority group professionals in the Virginia state government has jumped by nearly 66 per cent since 1971, according to the state personnel department. But black leaders in the state uniformly agreed in interviews that the state's hiring of minority group members still leaves much to be desired.
Jack W. Gravely, executive secretary of the state conference of the NAACP, said the state's minority hiring statistics are "misleading."
"Unequivocally, you still can point an accusing finger at the state government of Virginia," Gravely said. "Most blacks are still in the lower-echelon jobs, and the few pieces of pepper mixed in with salt.
"I must admit my eyebrows raised at those figures," said Del. William P. Robinson (D-Norfolk), the only black member of the House of Delegates.
Robinson said he agreed two years ago to give the governor's office a two-year "grace period" in which to increase minority employment.
"There were four or five blacks in positions making about $25,000 and all the rest were in the next to the lowest job category , straight across the board," Robinson said.
Employees under the state secretary of education account for 1,643 of the minority professionals, and 648 of them work at either Norfolk State College or Virginia State College in Petersburgh, both of which are predominantly black schools. Another 77 minority group members are employed in professional positions at the Virginia School in Hampton, a predominantly black school for deaf and blind children.
The other black professionals are divided among five other agencies, with a large number of them working for various state health agencies.
There are 21 minority professionals under the secretary of transportation (about 1.5 per cent of the total professionals); 997 under the secretary of human resources (2.5 per cent), 514 under the secretary of public safety (24.5 per cent); and 44 under the secretary of administration (4.9 per cent).
In the State Police department, there is one minority professional, a dietary unit supervisor, according to state EEOC figures. The State Police were sued in December by the U. S. Department of Justice for allegedly using recruiting and personnel practices that illegally and systematically discriminate against blacks and women.
Four blacks are employed in the governor's office itself, according to spokesman AI Coates. One is a deputy assistant to the state cabinet, one is an aide to the secretary of education, one is a secretary and the other is a clerk. The governor's office employs about 50 people, Coates said.
Del. Ira M. Lechner (D-Arlington), who is running for lieutenant governor and has pushed for the hiring of more minorities and women in state government, said he believes that minority employment "is better than it was, but far from what it should be."
"If you look at the top 2,000 appointed officials you find very few blacks," Lechner said. "The State Police is a glaring example, but it is symptomatic of the entire system. Lechner said he "can't condemn the governor with a broad brush, but he hasn't done nearly as much as he should."
In the Attorney General's Office which is not under the executive branch, four black professionals were hired in 1976, including one summer intern, according to the new attorney general, Anthony Troy. There are 94 jobs in the Attorney General's Office, which means the work force there is about 4 per cent black.
At the State Corporation Commission, an independent agency that regulates utilities, insurance, and banking, there is one black in a professional position in its insurance division, plus two black secretaries, out of 475 employees, according to SCC spokeman John Daffron. That means the SCC work force is less than 1 per cent black.
"Because of the state government financial pinch, we haven't recruited anybody in a while," Daffron said.
Edward A. Ragland, 59 is the only black director of a state government agency, according to the EEOC list. Ragland heads the Office of Housing.
"The fact that I'm the only black agency head is an obvious fact of there being too few blacks," said Ragland, who was appointed by Godwin. But he said he is critical of the system, not the governor.
"People are chosen for positions by people who weigh too heavily on previous experiences," Ragland said. "Often, previous experience has nothing to do with the individual being able to perform well. It penalizes individuals for the failure of having had job opportunities in the past."
Whites are given "the chance to fail," Ragland said, and blacks should be given the same opportunity.
David K. McCloud, state EEOC co-ordinator, noted that several years ago, black community leaders were concerned about the number of blacks in state jobs. Now, he said, the concern has switched to the level of positions.
"Obviously, we've done something to alleviate the concern about general employment," McCloud said, "I consider that progress."
He said it also is significant that the state government hires a larger proportionof minorities than the private sector.