"George Moscone was a power broker for the poor," said Assembly Speaker Leo T. McCarthy, who last chatted with the mayor at the funeral of slain Rep. Leo J. Ryan (D-Calif.) last week.

While there were people in San Francisco who disliked Moscone, and others who thought he was a bad mayer, there are probably few who would disagree with McCarthy's assessment.

Friend and foe alike acknowledged that Moscone and his allies had tried to change the in-grown, cliquish nature of a city that had been living on the reputation of San Francisco's glamorous past.

When Moscone took over the mayoralty from the flamboyant Joseph Alioto, he, inherited a government that for decades had been hamstrung by an interlocking directorate of big unions and big business. Old neighborhoods languished, while the city choked with high-rises.

It was a city boastful of its civilization where, nonetheless, the poor, the black, the young and the increasing number of militant homosexuals were all but frozen out of the city commissions and boards.

Moscone changed much of this, and a lot of people hated him for it.

While Moscone had always been a union man, his administration immediately became the target of a crippling citywide strike led in large measure by police officers and firefirghters. Moscone settled that strike on terms that he thought were fair to the unons and favorable to the city.

Almost before he took office, Moscone was the target of a recall movement, in which the real issue was the condition of San Francisco. Moscone was depicted as being soft on crime. Tolerant of radicals and supportive of the efforts of the usually nameless "they" - the city's homosexual community - to play an overt role in determining the policies of government.

Moscone won anyway, won big. But his victory rankled some.

People like Dan White, the son of a fireman and one of 17 children, felt they had been frozen out by the new, liberal crowd. Though White was 17 years younger than Moscone, he became a spokesman for the San Francisco that used to be - and for the San Francisco that never was.

White, a former policeman and fireman who was scheduled to receive a medal Thursday for saving two people from a burning building, supported the strike against the city. He supported the recall movement, too. He was the only supervisor to oppose closing off a city street for a celebration by San Francisco's gay community.

The mayor and the homosexual supervisor were to White as they were to many dissenting San Franciscans, the symbols of a once-glorious city that had become dirty and dangerous.

In a city with a 19th-century tradition of vigilante violence. White wanted to organize neighborhood vigilante squads to help the police. On at least one occasion, he and an aide disrupted a neighborhood meeting that they thought was dominated by radicals.

Moscone, s striking-looking man who took careless heed of his personal safety, prided himself on the changes he had brought to San Francisco. When someone at a cocktail party referred to political associated Assemblyman Willie Brown as "a nigger," Moscone waded in with his fits. Moscone also prided himself on the open participation of homosexuals in the city's political process.

Milk represented the triumph of a gay community that had come out of the closet and into the supervisors' chambers.

He had run three times for supervisor before he won, and he said in an interview before his death that "perhaps the time will come when gays will move to the suburbs . . . But that won't happen with Dan White's attitude."

Geographically, the outer Mission district, which White represented on the Board of Supervisors before his resignation, was a physcial barrier between the homosexual's residential area of Castro Valley and the middleclass San Mateo County suburbs.

As for Moscone, he was throughout his life an open, friendly and outspoken man whose career may have been shaped by the death in an institution of his alcoholic father, a milk-wagon driver. His father's plight, Moscone once said, gave him understanding into the lives of the ordinary and the dispossessed.

And in a time of social retrenchment and conservatism, Moscone stuck firmly to his liberal standards.

"I'm not going to abandon the poor now that it has become fashionable to be hard-line and ultrarealistic about social goals." Moscone said during his recall fight. "That would make a farce of my previous beliefs."