When Gov. John N. Dalton, state legislators and staff members leave the Virginia State Capitol at night, a newcomer to state government takes over.

He is part of a crew of a half-dozen janitors who sweep and mop the 192-year-old building's marble floors, wipe fingerprints from its brass banisters and dust the busts of the distinguished Virginians that line its walls. He earns slightly less than $3 an hour -- $6,100 a year for full-time work, the very basement of the state's salary scale.

Besides his rock-bottom salary and janitorial duties, the new employe shares something else with his fellow custodians -- his race. In the Department of General Services for which he works, 249 of 250 custodial workers are black. By contrast, 53 of the agency's 55 administrators are white.

That pattern -- whites on top, blacks on bottom -- is repeated in dozens of other Virginia agencies ranging from the governor's office to the state's most prestigious public universities and colleges, an examination of state personnel records shows. More than 20 years after Jim Crow legally ended in the capital of the Old South, the statistics suggest that a tacit brand of segregation lives on.

"We're still the people in state government who cut the grass and polish the brass," says Jack Gravely, executive secretary of the Virginia branch of the NAACP.

State officials, who point to executive orders from two governors banning discrimination in hiring, inch-thick affirmative action plans from 120 state governors and schools and a six-member Equal Employment Opportunity Office, contend they have made considerable progress in minority hiring in recent years. They cite Dalton's appointment of a black woman to serve on his cabinet and note that minorities now hold 22.5 percent of all state jobs.

Blacks account for about 20 per cent of Virginia's population, according to current estimates.

Critics say that the numbers that count are comparisons of salaries compiled each year by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. According to the commission's latest available figures, blacks who work for state and local governments in Virginia averaged $8,487 in 1978, 22.4 percent under the average pay of $10,932 for whites.

"Overall, you'll find Virginia firmly in the bottom 10 with a lot of southern states considerably better," says Charles Christian, social geography professor at the University of Maryland, who recently completed a study of the commission statistics.

As the numbers show, all states have a long way to go to make up discrepancies in white and black income levels. Critics contend the Dalton administration has aggravated the problem in Virginia by neglect.

"The best example should be set by the chief executive and all he's done is paid lip service to the problem," says Richmond Democrat L. Douglas Wilder, the state's only black senator.

The governor's own staff of 33 illustrates why Wilder and other blacks are mad. While Dalton has eight blacks on his staff, all but one works at the mansion as cooks, butlers, maids, and laundry workers whose salaries begin at the rock-bottom $6,100-a-year figure. Dalton's office staff of 25 includes just one black, a clerk.

The critics have been joined recently by the governor's own Equal Employment Opportunity Committee, which charged in a report that minority hiring has been given low priority by top administrators in most state agencies. The report also states that officials responsible for enforcing nondiscrimination regulations are ignorant of the basic state and federally-imposed guidelines they are supposed to follow.

Dalton's office has refused to make the committee report public, despite the fact it was formally submitted to him a month ago. The governor so far also has refused the committee's request for a face-to-face meeting, even though such meetings were an annual event before this year.

"Maybe he's got more important things to do," complains committee chairman Leonardo Chappelle, who will not discuss it but is said privately to be angry over Dalton's apparent rejection.

The anger of some committee members increased two months ago when Dalton's personal chief Kenneth B. Yancey, chose a longtime Republican activist with no background or training in personnel matters to oversee the state's EEO office.

That appointee, Elsie G. Holland, a former member of the Richmond GOP Committee and former education professor at black-run Virginia Union University in Richmond, last week defended her selection as a sign that the administration was committed to equal employment. A black woman who was raised in Southside Virginia, Holland noted both her parents worked in custodial and cafeteria jobs at a whites-only public school. She is aware, she said, of the parallels with modern state government.

"You're dealing with people in some state agencies who have behaved in a traditional way and to change that behavior takes time," says Holland who concedes that the recession and the scarcity of new state jobs is making her task even harder.

Holland's files contain a six-inch thick computer printout breaking down the racial composition of state agencies and their workers as of last March 30. It demonstrates just how difficult Holland's job will be:

The Department of Highways and Transportation, one of the state's largest agencies, lists just eight blacks among its 859 administrators and professionals.

At State Police headquarters, a minority recruitment plan ordered by a U.S. court has increased the number of black troopers to 32 on the force of 921. The agency still lists only one black among its 110 special agents, and no blacks among its 206 investigators, sergeants and higher-ranking officers.

The State Corporation Commission, an independent agency not under the governor's control, reports just eight blacks among its 474 administrators and professionals.

Attorney General J. Marshall Coleman's office, also dependent of Dalton, lists three blacks among its staff of 87 lawyers.

Virginia Commonwealth University, located in Richmond where 50 percent of the population is black, reports just nine blacks on its tenured faculty of 626. By contrast, 518 of the 539 people in the school's lowest paying "service-maintenance" posts are black.

The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg lists two blacks among its full-time faculty of 371, yet 103 of the 109 people in its "service-maintenance" jobs are black. At the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, just 18 of the full-time faculty of 1,377 are black.

All 40 of the state's colleges and universities were required, under a 1978 desegregation agreement with the federal government, to file affirmative action plans and cease any racial discrimination in hiring.

An inspection of the affirmative action plans by the state's EEO office determined last year that seven of the schools, including William and Mary, needed to "take additional steps to achieve compliance." A staff member, in the office said the language was a tactful way of saying that the seven schools' plans "were woefully inadequate."

Paul G. Edwards, Dalton's press secretary, said the EEO committee had been told to meet with personnel director Yancey rather than the governor because "he [Dalton] just doesn't have time to meet with everybody."

Edwards also turned down a reporter's request to interview workers at the governor's mansion, where public access is restricted by police guards. "The only purpose would be to try to produce an embarrassing story about the governor," Edwards said.