It began with prayer, ended in a party, and at 12:20 p.m. made history.

Inaugural Day in Richmond brought thousands of Virginians from every corner of the state to witness the swearing-in of Gerald L. Baliles, L. Douglas Wilder and Mary Sue Terry -- a Democratic trio that brought the first black and the first woman into statewide office.

It was a day that brought a black, 82-year-old Baptist preacher from Newport News to see his first Virginia inauguration.

"I remember some of the places where I used to have to go around to the side window to ask for a hamburger," said the Rev. W.W. Butler. "There's history made today; we've come a long way."

Former lieutenant governor Henry E. Howell, the Norfolk populist who lost three races for governor, marveled at the change in race relations: "When I first started in politics, the black leadership would ask you to meet after 9 o'clock at night at an undisclosed place when the moon wasn't out . . . . Virginians are casting their votes proudly on the merits . . . . not racial prejudice."

One Republican delegate was overheard telling a reporter: "This is not a quote, but I have never seen so many minks, Mercedes and minorities."

For those who recalled the bitter cold 1982 inauguration of Charles S. Robb, the first Democratic governor in 16 years, today was a sequel with an atmospheric difference.

"When Chuck was inaugurated, we were back on a snowbank," said Mary Clark of Richmond, one of the first arrivals, as she spread plaid blankets on the sunny north lawn of the Capitol at 9:30 a.m. "Not this time."

Others compared the inaugurals in different terms. "Robb has star quality; when he came in there was national press. People magazine was even here," said state Sen. Dudley J. Emick (D-Botetourt). The senator, attending a brief morning joint session of the General Assembly, said he predicted that Baliles "would be more popular with the legislators [than Robb], but not nearly as popular with the public."

In Richmond's crowded streets, hotel lobbies and assembly halls, it was a day that blended high pomp with ordinary circumstance.

There were some rituals -- a morning prayer service for 1,000 in St. Paul's Episcopal Church, a 19-gun salute that shook the Capitol windows and a sold-out ball for 10,000 at the Richmond Coliseum.

In seats ordinarily occupied by rock fans, men in black ties and women in taffeta gazed at the narrow red-carpeted dance floor.

Spectators craned forward for a glimpse of Terry and her escort Don Beyer, a Falls Church Volvo dealer, and of Wilder. Then the Balileses emerged into the spotlight from behind a replica of the state Capitol and set the evening in motion with their first dance as governor and first lady of Virginia.

And there were everyday moments that were not on the governor's schedule.

"Last night, we unintentionally left our arthritic beagle, Bandit, in the house," said Baliles, appearing in morning coat, vest and gray gloves at the John Marshall Hotel. "I spent my last day in the house in the Richmond suburbs cleaning up after my dog."

A few minutes later, Robb, dressed identically to Baliles and the male members of the General Assembly, handed over a pair of keys.

"Is that the key to the mansion?" an observer called. Robb paused. "I happen to know that this key works a very important door in the mansion . . . After all these years in government, he finally has a key to the executive washroom."

The oaths took 10 minutes, but their significance brought out-of-town guests, including former New York City mayor John V. Lindsay. "I came to salute one of the most important events in the U.S. It's a sign of hope for something better," Lindsay said.

After the oaths were taken, a cheer rose from the bleachers and someone hoisted a "Baliles for Governor" sign above the crowd. Hometown bands, color guards, and representatives from groups like the Wheel Wizards wheelchair athletes and the Learning Disabled Council waited to join the parade, which had a special emphasis on the handicapped. At the same time, some of the 15,000 spectators formed a line that snaked around the Capitol for a chance to shake hands with Baliles, Wilder and Terry.

In a moment that hushed the crowd, 11-year-old David W. (Dack) Axselle, who has spina bifida, swung himself quickly on crutches to a spot in front of the lectern and gave a buoyant thumbs-up wave to start the parade. The band played "Fanfare to the Common Man."