The fourth band in the parade was nearing the reviewing stand as private citizen Mills Edwin Godwin slipped out of a side exit of the State Capitol and into an unmarked, metallic green police car.

Godwin, 62, inaugurated as governor four years earlier on a promise to preserve what he often would call "the Virginia way," was leaving office in a manner firmly dictated by the traditions he cherished.

Having seen John N. Dalton, the man he believed would preserve those traditions installed as his successor barely 20 minutes earlier, Godwin was almost unnoticed as he was whisked away from Capitol Square to a private luncheon here.

Later, Charles Murphy, the state police sergeant in charge of Godwin's bodyguards for the past four years, would drive Godwin and his wife back to their white brick home on the banks of the broad Nansemond River in southeastern Virginia.

There, in keeping with the traditions of former governors, Godwin will return to the life of a country squire, serving on the boards of several major corporations, and at least for what one aide said will be "several weeks," scrupulously avoiding public attention.

It will mark a return to the same life that Godwin knew for four years after his first term as governor until the Republican Party summoned him from his self-imposed exile, persuaded him to join their ranks, and made him the only man to be twice elected governor of Virginia by its citizens.

Today, as Godwin again departed from public life, he heard Dalton call him "first the architect of a great leap forward and then the firm hand which sustained our progress during a time of troubles unequaled in recent years."

Rather than remain to share in the private accolades of others. Godwin bowed to tradition and left the inaugural platform immediately after Dalton finished his speech, stopping only in a Capitol snack bar to embrace its owner, Louise (Chicken) Olliff,

"I love him and we both cried," she said later, adding she planned to break tradition and keep Godwin's picture hanging behind the counter even though he had left office.

Yesterday afternoon, as Godwin left his office on the third floor of the Capitol for the last time, there were chief public glimpses of the warm, private life of a man who in public so often seemed to be aloof. Standing before a huge portrait of Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson, there was Godwin, hands of his hips, his glasses perched on his nose, in one of his final magisterial acts: parceling out paperweights embossed with the state seal and his signature.

"You just happened to be in the right place at the right time," announced one his secretaries to a surprised visitor as she plopped one of the heavy, square, green marble weights in his lap. It was almost 5:30 p.m. and Godwin had signed his final pardons, written his final letters and passed out autographed portraits to the members of his staff.

"This is for you, my love," he said, embracing Anne Geddys, one of his outer-office aides, who burst into tears. "It's really hard to say bye . . .He's such a dear," said Julie Parker, a receptionist who has known Godwin since she was a small child visiting her grandparents near Godwin's old home in Suffolk.

"Oh, I didn't think it would be this bad," Miss Parker said, as she glanced as the dozen red roses her fiance had sent the office.

"I've cried so much today I'm at the point of being silly," said Felicia T. Prendergast, Godwin's assistant press secretary, as she made copies of Godwin's final letters to distribute to reporters.

Throughout the afternoon, as the staff darted in and out of Godwin's inner office for final, private meetings with thei? r boss, the official business of state went on uninterrupted. A messenger punched away at an adding machine, totaling up the postage used by another office ($369.20 a month) for a study for the new administration, he said.

Shortly after 5 p.m., an official of the secretary of the commonwealth arrived and immediately called his office. "If you've got anything else to be signed by this administration, it's got to be over here by 5:30," he said.

There was one remaining pardon being typed for Godwin's signature, but by that hour the governor's staff had become so disassembled that an aide announced it would be Monday before state workers could compile a list of the pardons and release them. Still, there were final pronouncements that the staff did announce - an agreement to transfer interstate highway funds for Northern Virginia's Metro subway systems, a go-ahead for work on a state prison near Richmond, and an appointment for former Richmond Del. Edward E. Lane.

A close friend, Lane was the only Democrat that Godwin, a former Democrat, supported in the November elections when Lane ran unsuccessfully for attorney general. Godwin named him to the board of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, the state's most prestigious art institution.

"I think he has a feeling of accomplishment . . . he's in a good mood," said State Sen. Stanley E. Walker, a Norfolk Democrat who was one of the last legislators to meet with Godwin. Walker, who has known Godwin since their days in the Ruritan Club, said the governor spoke philosophically of his second term and the problems - "a lot of problems" - that confronted him.

"You know, he's a worrywart," Walker said. "He likes to see things finished and this term there were problems that no man could finish."

After a breakfast of fish roe and eggs, orange juice and grapefruit, Godwin, wearing a blue vested suit, met with reporters at the mansion and offered a surprisingly practical view of his four years. "The thing I will miss perhaps most - other than the friends - will be having a parking space," he said.