The Rev. James B. Ficklen III, 64, a Presbyterian minister and administrator, died Monday at Washington Hospital Center after a heart attack.

He had played a key role in establishing the National Capital Union Presbytery here, serving as general presbyter, before his retirement in 1975.

Born in Atlanta, Mr. Ficklen was a graduate of Davidson College in North Carolina and Union Theological Seminary in Richmond. Before World War II, he was pastor of First Presbyterina Church in Mount Airy, N.C.

During the war, he was an Army chaplain in Europe. After the war, Mr. Ficklen was minister of a church, in Charlotte, N.C., and participated in its merger with another church to form Covenant Presbyterian Church, the largest church of that denomination in Charlotte.

He also served churches in Tarboro, N.C., and Raleigh before coming to the Washington area in 1961, where he was administrative head of all of the Southern Presbyterian churches, U.S. in the Presbytery of the Potomac.

Mr. Ficklen later helped work out the merger in this area if the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. (Southern) and the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., (Northern) form (the National Capital Union Presbytery, (U.S.-U.S.A.).

He is survived by his wife, Carolyn James Ficklen, and a daughter, Anne, both of the home in Washington; two other daughters, Ellen Mitchell, of Washington, and Frances Ficklen, of New York City, and a sister, Miriam Howell, of Waynesville, N.C.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy may be in the form of contributions to the National Capital Union Presbytery or the scholarship fund of National Cathedral School.