J. William Middendorf II, former secretary of the Navy, smiled and smiled. Robert E. Lee IV, great-grandson of the Confederate general pressed flesh and signed autographs. National Park Service volunteers roamed the grounds above Arlington cemetery in white bonnets and flower print hoop skirts.
Connie Adams, whose brainchild it was, flashed her pixy grin.
"He had such integrity," said the Roanoke, Va., native of her hero, Robert E. Lee. "He was a great family man."
Adams was one of more than 200 tourists, locals and diehard sons and daughters of the Confederacy who gathered yesterday on the lawn of Arlington's Custis-Lee masion to celebrate the 149th anniversary of the general's wedding to Mary Custis.
Yesterday's ceremony was a brassy department from the normally quiet annual candlelight commemoration. The U.S. Army Band, in full dress uniform, was there, backs turned to a sterling view over Memorial Bridge and the capital.
"All this is for the music," confided a national Park Service staffer. "For the march."
"They erected statues in the '30s. Then they wrote books," said Lee IV. a vice-president for advertising with the A. Smith Bowman distilleries. "But to my knowledge, this is the first time Robert E. Lee has been put to music."
Yesterday was the premiere of the Robert E. Lee March.
"I can really relate to this," said a woman from Florida wearing white cotton shorts. "I'm a Confederate."
Adams and Middendorf had reason to smile. The idea for the Robert E. Lee March was hers. He wrote the music.
Both go back to the days when Adams was producing the Harden and Weaver show on WMAL radio. Middendorf, who has written more than 100 marches, including the Grand Hoopla March for the radio duo, was a regular contributor to the morning wake-up program.
About three years ago, Adam now a public relations vice president for Harrill-farr advertising, suggested something to honor Lee.
"I said, 'Bill, if you ever write a Robert E. Lee March I'll have it premiered in style.'"
And Middendorf, who writes music because "it keeps my mind off the Bolsheviks," said "Why not?"
The audience stood for the Army Band's premier rendition. Gusty winds that had been chasing clouds over the Lincoln Memorial blew one clarinet player's music back into the tuba section. A flute player had to stop momentarily to retrieve his from under a chair.
When it was over, Middendorf took congratulations all around.
"I'm really just an amateur," he demurred.
Lee IV, hard-pressed to make a lunch date with his daughter downtown, was surrounded by tourists holding programs for his signature. Wearing a light gray suit and squarish glasses, he took all comers with a smile.
Normally, the descendant of the man who led the South's charge across the Mason-Dixon line has the kind of identity problem that would qualify him for an American Express commerical.
Lee who lives in Mclean, remarked, "I've been a bourbon drinker all my life and I do a lot of work for Virginia Gentlemen," one of the whiskeys produced by his employer. "People always ask me, 'Come on. What's your real name?'"