Eben A. Ayers, former executive editor of the Providence Journal and assistant press secretary to Presidents Roosevelt and Truman, died Feb. 18 of respiratory failure in Georgetown University Hospital.

Mr. Ayers, who began his career as a reporter with the Watertown Standard in his hometown of Watertown, N.Y., won an honorable mention in the 1938 Pulitzer Prize competition.

He won the honor for helping to solve the kidnaping of a little girl in Boston while he was a reporter with the Associated Press there.

According to his colleague, Robert Walsh, a retired reporter for the Washington Star, Mr. Ayers was most proud of the stories he wrote about Sacco and Vanzetti during his more than 30 years as an editor and reporter.

Mr. Ayers began his career on papers in Watertown and Syracuse, N.Y. before he joined the Elizabeth Journal in Elizabeth, N.J.

He left the Journal and served in the Army in France during World War I as a field clerk to John Pershing and took part in the Battle of Somme.

After the war he joined the AP in New York City and in 1921, a year later, he was assigened to open the first AP bureau in Harrisburg, Pa., the state capital.

In 1928 Mr. Ayers joined AP's Boston bureau, heading it in 1935. He left the AP a year later to become the executive editor of the Providence Journal.

At the outbreak of World War II he came to Washington to work as the liaison between the White House and the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs.

Towards the end of the war, he joined the White House press office, serving Presidents Roosevelt and Truman during a nine-year career as an assistant press secretary.

He retired in 1953 and continued to live in the District.

Mr. Ayers is survived by his wife, Mary, of the home, and a brother, Leonard, of New Port Richey, Fla.