James W. Irwin, 86, a retired Civil Service Commission official and an authority on the Hatch Act. died of a heart ailment on Oct. 14 in Pulaski, Tenn.

He was chief hearing examiner of the Civil Service Commission from 1940 until he retired in 1961.

"Judge" Irwin, as he was known to colleagues on the commission, was the author of the 1949 book. "Hatch Act Decisions of the U.S. Civil Service Commission." This was a legal text and casebook, dealing with the Hatch Act, a law restricting the political acitivities of most federal employees.

Born in Savannah, Tenn., he earned bachelor's and law degrees from Vanderbilt University.

After private practice of law in Oklahoma for a number of years, he came to Washington in 1932 to work for the National Recovery Administration.

He directed the bureau of motor carriers of the Interstate Commerce Commission for a number of years before joining the Civil Service Commission.

After he retired from government, he moved to Pulaski and established a private law practice in 1962.

Mr. Irwin was a member of the Cosmos Club and belonged to Mount Vernon Place Methodist Church.

He is survived by his wife, Gladys C., of the home in Pulaski.