They came not to bury former congressman Robert E. Bauman but to praise him. Forced inside by forbidding skies, Bauman, who lost his seat in the House of Representatives two years ago after admitting to compulsions to alcohol and homosexuality, held his annual bull roast today.
In the past, this had been a glamorous event with crowds approaching 1,000 and big-name speakers such as Ronald Reagan (before he was president); Sen. Robert Dole and Rep. Jack Kemp. No one with that kind of fame showed up today, but four conservative congressmen came to lend support, as did Donald J. Devine, Reagan's director of the Office of Personnel Management.
Devine, asked if his presence meant he was endorsing Bauman in the primary, in which Bauman is facing state Sen. C.A. Porter Hopkins, answered "yeah."
The four congressmen, Henry Hyde of Illinois, Caldwell Butler of Virginia, Albert Lee Smith of Alabama and Bill Young of Florida, all said they were supporting Bauman.
"I'm here because I think Bob Bauman was a good congressman," said Butler, who is retiring at the end of the term. "I make no apologies for that."
Not all of the 300 people at the 4-H club grounds were committed to Bauman: "I'm here because I haven't missed a bull roast in years," said Blan Harcum, head of the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee.
The lightest moment of the day came from Butler. After Bauman had read numerous letters from officials singing his praises, Butler said, "I've got one more here. It's from Tip O'Neill. It says, 'Drop dead.' "
The day was not without controversy. Young said he received telegrams from constituents urging him not to attend. He said he had not planned to attend, because he underwent dental surgery in Florida on Friday.
"But this telegram said if I went he planned to make my constituents aware of the fact that I had gone to Bauman's bull roast," Young said. "I couldn't duck that kind of challenge."