John Robertson Deatherage, 73, a writer and editor for the Department of Agriculture for more than 30 years and the first president of the Annandale Citizens Association, died at the Fairfax Nursing Center last Wednesday following a stroke.

Mr. Deatherage was born in Harriman, Tenn., and came to Washington with his family as a youth. He graduated from Old Central High School and then earned a bachelor's degree in botany at the University of Tennessee.

After working five years as a reporter on the Knoxville, Tenn., Sentinel and the Chattanooga, Tenn., Times, he returned to Washington in 1930 and began his career with the Department of Agriculture. He remained with the department until his retirement in 1965.

Apart from his government work, Mr. Deatherage was active in civic affairs. He became president of the Annandale Citizens Association when it was formed in the 1940s and was an early advocate of land-use planning in Fairfax County.

He also was an enthusiastic gardener. He devoted much of his time since his retirement from the government to growing azaleas and rhododendrons.

Survivors include his wife, Mary T. Deatherage, of the home in Annandale; a daughter, Cile Sinnex, of Honolulu; a sister, Pauline Deatherage, of Washington, and a brother, Hubert Deatherage, of Crossville, Tenn.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to The Wilderness Society, 1901 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C., 20006.