Clarence M. Ferguson, 78, a retired administrator of the Agriculture Department's Federal Extension Service, died Thursday in Raleigh, N.C.

He had served here as administrator from 1953 until September, 1960. He then was named Assistant Secretary of Agriculture and held that position until retiring at the end of January, 1961.

Born in Ontario, Canada, Mr. Ferguson joined the Extension Service in 1922 and spent the next six years as a poultry specialist and teacher at Michigan State University.

He then was sent to Bogota for a year to help organize an experiment station for the Colombian government.

From there, Mr. Ferguson was transferred to Ohio State University as an Extension service poultryman, a position he held for 20 years.

He was director of the Ohio Extension Service from 1949 until coming here in 1953.

Credited with educational leadership in the Rural Development Program of the Agriculture Department, he received the department's Distinguished Service Award in 1956. He also held the Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award from the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.

After retiring here, Mr. Ferguson taught part-time at the University of Wisconsin in Madison for four years. He then moved to Raleigh, where he taught at North Carolina State University for five years.

He is survived by his wife, Margaret, of the home in Raleigh; two sons, David of Austin, Tex., and John, of Schenectady, N.Y., and five grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy may be in the form of contributions to the National 4-H Foundation in Washington or the Hays-Barton Methodist Church in Raleigh.