Republican gubernatorial nominee John N. Dalton today told the approving congregation of Virginia's largest predominantly black church that his administration will include "black policy makers," rather than "ambassadors to the black community."
Dalton's Democratic opponent, former Lt. Gov. Henry E. Howell, is expected to get the overwhelming majority of black Virginian votes in the Nov. 8 election. However, Dalton hopes to trim that majority, which is essential to a Howell victory, with a well-focused appeal such as the one that won support from the church he visited today.
The civic association of the church, the Cedar Street Memorial Baptist Church of God, voted last week to endorse Dalton for governors, Democrat Charles S. Robb for lieutenant governor and Republican J. Marshall Coleman for attorney general.
The church membership often has supported Republican or moderate-conservative Democratic candidates. Its minister, Dr. Benjamin W. Robertson, reminded the congregation from the pulpit today that "we don't line up on one side only."
"The Republicans have done things for and against us and the Democrats have done things for and against us," he said.
Dalton's standing with the Cedar Street congregation of 4,000 clearly is helped by the legacy of his father, U.S. District Court Judge Ted Dalton. The elder Dalton was the leading Republican foe in the 1950s of the conservative Democratic Byrd organization and its policy of massive resistance to school desegregation.
"During the years of massive resistance," Dr. Robertson said, when the Democrats were against us - Mr. Byrd and the others - this man's father, Ted Dalton, stood up and fought for us."
Howell also was a foe of the Byrd Organization, working to overthrow it from within the Democratic Party. He was first elected to the House of Delegates on the strength of his fight to keep the Norfolk public schools open in the face of the state directed, massive resistance policy of closing them.
In a speech interrupted often by applause, candidate Dalton spoke of his political heritage and his plans for including blacks in his administration.
"I came from a family that did not believe in discrimination," he said, "and we practiced what we preached."
Dalton told the predominantly black congregation. "You would be comfortable worshipping in my church, the First Baptist Church of Radford. We have had blacks and whites worshipping together for years. A black man joined our church just last week. We haven't had the problems that some churches have had in that respect."
This apparent reference to the controversy over black members that divided President Carter's Baptist church in Plains, Ga., brought smiles to the face of many in the congregation.
Speaking of a Dalton administration, he said, "I don't plan to have an ambassadors to the black community. We won't have specialist in black affairs. I think we have gotten beyond that. We will have blacks in policy making positions, the kind of people you see working in my campaign."
Dalton and his wife, Edwina, were accompanied to the church service by Dr. Frank Royal, a Richmond physician and state co-chairman of the Dalton campaign, and Norvelle Robinson, 3rd Congressional District coordinator for Dalton. Both Royal and Robinson are black.
Pastor Robertson told the congregation as he introduced Dalton that Dr. Royal had given $500 to the church building fund. At the end of the services, Robertson said the Daltons also had contributed $500 to the fund.