Thomas R. Elliston, 58, a former Washington reporter and retired United States Information Agency foreign service officer, died Thursday at his home, in Lima, Peru, after an apparent heart attack.

His last assignment from 1974 until he retired in 1976 was as a program officer in USIA's foreign correspondents' press centers in the National Press Club building in Washington and in New York City.

From 1946 to 1950 he had worked as a reporter, rewrite man and radio and TV page editor of the Washington Times-Herald.

A native Washingtonian, Mr. Elliston had worked for several newspapers in New York and California before joining the Navy in 1942.

During World Warr II he handled Seabee public information programs in both Virginia and Okinawa. Immediately after the war he helped establish and supervise the publication of a weekly Japanese language newspaper.

He joined the U.S. State department in 1951 and served as a press officer in London.

Mr. Elliston transferred to the USIA, when that agency was created in 1953 and worked as a news writer for the Voice of American, covering Capitol Hill, the White House, and many federal departments for the radio-teletyped news service.

In 1968 he earned the agency's highest award, the Meritorious Honor Award, for his work in reporting the Tet offensive, at great personal risk, while serving in Vietnam.

He earned the agency's 1976 Superior Honor Award, "for the creation and implementation of unusually imaginative and effective election year programs." During the Presidential campaign of that year he had escorted many important foreign press representatives through New Hampshire, Florida, Wisconsin and California helping them cover the primaries. He also assisted in the accreditation of foreign media representative to both conventions. He also organized a series of lectures on the American election process.

Mr. Elliston is survived by his wife, Gisera and a stepdaughter, Michelle Elliston, both of the home in Lima, Peru; three daughters, Judy Anne Coughlin, of Aldie, Va., Mary Lynn Elliston, on Arlington, and Margaret Smiraglia, of Oakton, Va.; son, Harold T. of Oakton: a brother, Warren, of Houston and his mother, Frances Elliston, of Washington.