James H. Smith yesterday was fired as president of The Washington Star, according to a spokesman for the newspaper's publisher and chief executive, Joe L. Allbritton.

A short announcement in late editions of The Star yesterday said only that Smith "was relieved of his duties" by Allbritton, who "will assume the additional role of chief operating officer until a successor is named."

The Star publisher was said to be out of town and not available to comment on his decision. Smith's secretary said she did not know where he could be reached.

Formerly the general manager of the Sacramento (Calif.) Bee, Smith took over as star newspaper president last May, after being selected by Allbritton. He succeeded Richard S. Stakes and was put in charge of everything but the editorial side of the paper.

At the same time, Smith said he looked forward to the opportunity to join the "aggressive, cooperative efforts" then in progress to make the Star an increasingly "healthy and important part of the Washington scene, essential to both its readers and its advertisers."

Smith had been with the Bee from January 1974 until last April.Previously he was an executive of the Express Publishing Co., in San Antonio, the Copley Newspapers and the Christian Science Monitor.

A native of Elyria, Ohio, Smith began his newspaper industry career as director of industrial relations for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

When James G. Bellows resigned as Star editor last November, to become editor of the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, some sources said there had been friction between Smith and Bellows about the president's call for staff reductions to improve the newspaper's financial condition.

Since then, Allbritton has sold the Star to Time Inc., for $20 million in cash but has remained as publisher and chief executive.