Democrat Henry E. Howell swept through Norfolk State COllege here today, exhorting the cheering student body of the predominantly black school to deliver him a vote as large "as if Dr. Martin Luther King had returned to earth and was running for governor."

"The president of Vepco is not voting for Henry Howell," the candidate shouted to a cafeteria filled with lunching young people, "but your vote counts as much as his . . . it carries the same weight as any in Virginia."

"The president of the Virginia National Bank is not voting for Henry . . . these folks want to stop Henry and what we've been doing. Are you going to let that happen?"

"No!" called a scattering of students.

Standing with an arm around the shoulder of Dr. William P. Robinson, chairman of the college's Department of Political Science and one of the first blacks elected to the Virginia legislature, Howell praised Robinson as a "miracle worker" and "history maker" in the annals of state government.

Howell's black support in Norfolk has been the mainstay of his political base in every campaign he has undertaken and is critical to the outcome of Tuesday's election against Republican John Dalton.

Howell received the endorsement of two student fraternities during his Norfolk State visit as three film crews and a dozen reporters recorded the event.

The candidate was not unmindful of the media presence ("We want that banner in here to be seen by ABC, CBS and NBC") and neither was the audience.

For every student pressing forward to shake Howell's hands there were two pressing forward to appear within camera range.

Robinson called the election Tuesday "the most critical of the last 40 years to the poor, the blacks and the unspoken for," and urged the largest possible vote for Howell whom he described as "the man for every man and woman in this state."

From Norfolk, Howell flew to RIchmond where he stood in the misty gloom of twilight outside the state Department of Highways and Transportation headquarters handing out pamphlets silhouetted in the headlights of the cars of homebound commuters.

"Henry's for the state workers," he would say shaking hands through open car windows, "we need your help."

Dalton, meanwhile, took his campaign into Tidewater, Howell's home territory. Dalton is determined to campaign in every city and county in Virginia, he said, and has only two localities left before reaching that goal.

His campaign is concentrating at this point on such campaign stops as factories, hospitals and high schools.

At a rally last night in Shenandoah County, at the other end of the state from Tidewater, Dalton joined former Republican Gov. A. Linwood Holton in speaking to an enthusiastic crowd of about 300 Republicans at a rally in an elementary school.

Dalton shook hands today at a paper product factory and later visited York Academy where about 250 of the all white student body gave him a thunderous ovation. In return, he gave them one of his standard speeches, a generous allotment of time considering that few of the students are 18 and eligible to vote.

On the way out Dalton stopped in several classrooms, including a music class of first graders, where he told the children to "tell your mommy and daddy to help me in this election."

"What election?" chirped a little boy.

"For governor," Dalton answered.

"What's a governor?" the little boy asked.

"He runs the state government," Dalton explained. Then Dalton thanked them, and they yelled back, "You're welcome."