“It was a fiery speech. It was record cold.” This is how George Allen remembers the day of his inaugural. And then there's the soap, but more about that in a minute.
After spending the night with his family at the Marriott Hotel on East Broad Street, Allen took the oath as Virginia's 67th governor on the south portico of the Capitol and later proceeded to the building's north side to review the parade.
Throughout the proceedings, Allen says his father, the late Redskins coach George Allen, wasn't far from his thoughts: a seat on the inaugural platform was left empty as a tribute (along with empty seats honoring two other mentors as well). “Tom Skinner, the Redskins chaplain who'd once been a gang member in New York City, gave the inaugural prayer,” Allen says. “He'd officiated at my father's funeral.”
Gov. George F. Allen, holding his daughter, Tyler, acknowledges applause of the crowd at his inaugural, Jan. 15, 1994. His wife, Susan Allen, is at left.Of the arctic temperature, Allen considered it another sign: “I remembered Dec. 29, 1963, when my father was defensive coach for the Chicago Bears at Wrigley Field. I was thinking of that championship game. It is no colder on my inauguration day than it was in Chicago on Dec. 29, 1963.”
“I wore a long underwear shirt, but no overcoat or gloves until the parade,” he says. “They were relatively new gloves, but holes were knocked out of the fingers so I wrapped up the gloves in duct tape — good old duct tape.”
Among the former governors Allen recognized in his speech was outgoing Gov. Wilder. “I expressed the gratitude of the people for his 24 years of service. Little did I know that he'd run for [Richmond] mayor.”
Allen says when he began to sign his first executive order, “creating a strike force for efficiency in state government,” the ink and the pen had frozen.
As for the inaugural parade, Allen says, “some of the band members couldn't play their brass instruments.” But one group that carried through in fine form was the Harley-Davidson Riders for Allen unit. “They liked the ideas I was advocating,” he says. “When they'd asked me repeatedly throughout the campaign for tickets to the inauguration, I'd reply, ‘Let's just win this election.' I was told I didn't have a snowball's chance of winning.” After all, he recalls, “We started off 31 percent behind in the polls.”
Toward the end of the parade, and approaching the Executive Mansion for the first time, Allen and his family passed through the wide, iron gates: “Clang! Those gates closed behind me. Boy, that was really something.” Allen knew instinctively that his routine for the next four years would be different from that in his modest log house in Albemarle County.
“I'm so naA_ve,” he says, “I'd kept soaps and shampoos [from the campaign] in an old milk crate in the bathroom. I'd had that Shenandoah's Pride Milk crate sent to Richmond along with our things. When I went upstairs after the parade, Tutty, the butler, had them all nicely organized on a shelf, hotel by hotel: Holiday Inn, Econo-Travel and Day's Inn. I thought, gosh, isn't this nice. And the taxpayers didn't have to pay for any soap or shampoo during my term.”