Former senator George McGovern may just be a bad-luck candidate. Until last Sunday it looked as though he was to become the president of St. John's in Annapolis, the small, 400-student college that exclusively teaches the Great Books classics program. He was the chosen candidate of the search committee and was approved by the faculty and students. However, after the St. John's Board of Directors met in closed session in Dallas Sunday for what McGovern thought was to be his anointing, he was out and William M. Dyal Jr., the president of American Field Service International, had the job.

One board member who did not want to be identified, who was in Dallas and had been part of the search committee that had recommended the former Democratic presidential nominee, said McGovern was rejected strictly for party politics, a "Republican-Democrat thing." Another board member, Ray Cave, corporate editor of Time Inc., said there wasn't much discussion and he didn't know why McGovern had been rejected, but he wasn't surprised by the decision. "Any university or college considering any appointment as its president a national political figure has to be concerned about the pros and cons."

McGovern, who apparently is getting accustomed to this kind of thing, would only say yesterday: "I'm just destined not to be president of anything. This is not the first time I've been nominated but not elected."

The Rush for Chairs

Nearly every president and just about anyone else who ever sat through a performance at Ford's Theatre complained about the uncomfortable chairs, designed to resemble as closely as possible those in the theater the night Abraham Lincoln was shot there in 1865. There are many who saw the chairs as future firewood, but now that Ford's has decided to replace them with something more comfortable, the old chairs are in demand as collectors' items. Seizing on a good fund-raising idea, the chairs are being sold for $500 each, and people are actually buying the things.

The first chair was purchased by former Senate majority leader Howard Baker. And television talker Merv Griffin wrote out a check for $5,000 to buy 10. Some of the others who have bought the nearly 100 sold so far include Madison Hotel owner and collector of historic memorabilia Marshall Coyne, Republican National Committee Chairman Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., and Sens. Alan Simpson and Frank Lautenberg. Clyde's Inc. bought a chair for one of its bars, and Phil Carr bought one to display at the Occidental restaurant.

Sheila Tate, former press secretary to Nancy Reagan, bought one as a wedding anniversary present for her husband William Tate. The chair has a special significance for him since his great-grandmother Sarah Norton Russell, then 18 years old, was in Ford's Theatre the night Lincoln was shot.

End Notes

President and Nancy Reagan plan to spend Easter at their mountaintop ranch near Santa Barbara, Calif. The first lady will leave on vacation a day ahead of the president so she can visit her ailing mother, Edith Davis, in Phoenix . . .

Rock Hudson's estate has filed a $2 million countersuit against the actor's male lover, claiming the man blackmailed Hudson out of $72,000 by threatening to expose his homosexuality. The suit filed by Wallace Sheft, the estate's executor, also accused Marc Christian of selling sex for money while Hudson was out of the country and stealing $60,000 of Hudson's property . . .

Horror novelist Stephen King has written a eulogy to singer Rick Nelson, who died in a plane crash on New Year's Eve, that appears in the April issue of the rock magazine Spin. He said the singer deserves to be remembered because "he was still rocking" at 45. In his tribute, King said Nelson's style was "the voice of a kid whose biggest problem on any given day might include getting home and discovering that the last of the fudge ripple is gone and mom forgot to get a fresh tube of Brylcreem" . . .

Queen Elizabeth saw a version of Lewis Carroll's life she probably didn't expect. In Adelaide, Australia, the queen and Prince Philip were attending the premier of "Boojum," a musical about the author's life. In the show an actor playing the caterpillar from "Alice in Wonderland" stripped away a gold lame suit to a G-string and then removed that too. After the show, the queen greeted actor Waldemar Gorecki and complimented him on his performance. He admitted later to having been frightened to perform before the queen and added: "She has certainly seen a lot and she knows what the human body looks like." Maybe the old girl's loosening up a bit . .