Like a large wedding or gathering of the clan, the formalities and revelry surrounding today's inauguration of Virginia's three top officials had a kind of folksy, family quality about them that reflected both the traditions of the commonwealth and the relatively small size of its political world.
This two-day series of receptions, dinners, lunches, breakfast, balls, parades, speeches and swearings-in, was clearly a home-grown celebration. From the offhand remarks dignitaries made from the platform and the endless teasing they endured over their top hats and morning coats, to Elizabeth Taylor Warner waiting in line to use the public rest room in the Capitol and the parade of high school and college bands, the scenes of kinship were on view.
Like any extended family, this one has its differences, its rivalries and wars, pettiness and disgrace as well as togetherness warm feelings, and respect for public service. There was gossip ("I hate the way she wears her hair," said one woman of Lynda Robb) as well as graciousness ("But I love her hat," the same woman added), and giddiness along with solemnity.
There are two branches of this family: Republicans and Democrats, although in Virginia a member of one branch occasionally defects to the other. The Republicans were in the dominant position this weekend, as John N. Dalton was installed as governor and J. Marshall Coleman was sworn in an attorney general. The Democrats had Charles S. Robb, the new lieutenant governor, to toast, and took solace in the knowledge that they dominate the General Assembly.
The inaugural weekend began Friday with fund-raisers for Coleman and Robb, and is expected to end early Sunday when the inaugural balls (and a rump party sponsored by the Democrats) end.
Coleman's reception was dominated by the Willy Betts orchestra, which plays the big band sound. In fact, the sound was very big, so loud that people couldn't talk with each other without yelling. There was an island of stained fake grass and artificial dogwood for decoration, a cash bar and a lot of jolly Republicans, 600 of who paid $25 each to attend. The money will go toward Coleman's $86,000 campaign debt.
Robb's $125-a-plate dinner in the executive offices of a Richmond bank was attended by about 100 people in formal dress. Robb's mother-in-law, former first lady; Lady Bird Johnson kept getting hit in the face by the branches of a bush she was standing next to as people passed by.
"I'm exceedingly touched by your attendance here tonight," said Coleman to his crowd. "Of course, not as touched as you've been."
Dalton visited Coleman's reception and went to Robb's breakfast this morning, but neither Coleman nor Robb went to each other's fund-raisers. People are already saying they will be rivals for the governorship in four years.
At Robb's dinner, a diminutive retired Army general wearing a tuxedo and a handlebar moustache went around calling "He's the next governor, he's the next governor!"
Mrs. Johnson, who was escorted by lawyer Clark Cllifford last night and today, helped her daughter and son-in-law greet guests and looked after her two granddaughters during the ceremonies today. As the official parties assembled this morning the two girls, Lucinda, 9, and Cathy, 7, brought Dalton a present of two book ends.
Interviewed after the presentation, Lucinda said that her mother paid for the gift. "These Republican receptions - and Democratic - are so crowded," she sighed.
Earlier, Mrs. Robb said that Lucinda was born while her husband was serving as a marine in Vietnam. "It's a good thing she looks like him," she quipped. Mrs. Robb is expecting a third child, a fact that was overheard frequently.
Dalton seemed in jovial spirits as he made the rounds accompanied by his wife, security guards and aides with walkie-talkies. The guards occasionally used them to talk to each other even while in the same room.
After arriving at Robb's "thankyou" breakfast for contributors and campaign workers. Dalton and his wife Edwina or "Eddy," carried trays through the cafeteria line and got themselves some scrabled eggs, sausage and toast. A group called the "Ageless Wonders," a singing group of senior citizens whose average age is 76, sang "Tea for two" to the accompaniment of spoons. Later they sang "Happy Days Are Here Again" and got Mrs. Robb and Mrs. Johnson to dance with them. Robb joined them briefly for can-can.
Dalton chose his father, senior U.S. District Court Judge Ted Dalton, to administer the oath of office instead of the traditional head of the Virginia Supreme Court, The senior Dalton made two unsuccessful runs for the governorship in the 1950s. This mornign he was, as his son put it, "holding court" in the lobby of the John Marshall Hotel, greeting old friends and colleagues, he had invited to come.
One was Emmett LeFors, an 88-year-old cattle breeder from Pampa, Tex, who met Ted Dalton in "May of '37 when he sold him eight carloads of Hereford streers. "Ted's been calling for two months to get me to come," LeFors said. "He said, 'you're not going to let that little boy down, are you?'"
Gov. Blair Lee of Maryland was scheduled to fly to Richmond but his plane was canceled because of the weather; a number of bands didn't make it for the same reason. Lee's limousine had been dispatched to Richmond Friday night, so Del. Warren E. Barry (R-Fairfax), who had been chosen to be Lee's escort, rode in the limousine with a state trooper to rendezvous in Ashland. Lee drove to Ashland in his own car.
As the official escort was assembling, the House of Delegates and the Senate were convening. The Senate paused to mark the death of Hubert H. Humphery at the request of Democratic Party and chairman and Sen. Joseph T. Fitzpatrick (D-Norfolk). He asked that the statutue of religious freedom in the Virginia code, written by Thomas Jefferson, be read by the senator from Jefferson's home, Sen. J. Harry Michael. "He (Humphery) believed so strongly in everything Jefferson stood for," said Fitzpatrick.
Then the guests assembled on the raised platform constructed for the ceremony - a collection of rivals, past and present, wives and campaign managers, winners and losers and their aides. Two custodians rolled out a red carpet inside the rotunda and the official party was introduced.
There was a pause of several minutes. No one knew what was happening, other them that Coleman, Robb, Dalton and Godwin were not in sight. "He's down there waiting for me," said Mrs. Dalton, perhaps not aware that the microphones on the podium were on.
When they did arrive Coleman was sworn in first and then Robb, Cooke said, "Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the commonwealth of the gove . . . er, governor of the Commonwealth."
There on the stand were former Governors Albertis Harrison and Lindsay Almond, and Sen. Harry F. Byrd Jr. whose father was furious when Almond agreed to integrate the schools. There was former Gov. Linwood Holton, and the men he's running against for the Republican senatorial nomination - John Warner, Richard Obenshain, and Nathan Miller. There was Judge Robert R. Mehrige, known as the liberal judge from Richmond and Sen. William L. Scott, who frequently makes critical remarks about "liberal judges." There was Edward E. Lane, who lost to Coleman, and Sen. Joe Canada, who lost to Robb.
"There's (former congressman) Wat Abbitt shaking hands with a blackman!" commented one legislator. "He's one of the biggest (segregationists) there ever was."
"You smile the friendliest at your enemies," said Holton in a brief interview. "(This kind of gathering) is a very healthy process . . ."
"I tell you," Fitzpatrick said pro-pos of nothing in particular as he surveyed the scene. "I am glad I'm a Virginian."