E. Roland Harriman, 82, New York banker, former volunteer head of the American Red Cross for 23 years and a patron of harness racing, died yesterday at his home in Arden, N. Y.He had been in declining health for some time.

At the time of his death, he was an active partner in Brown Brothers Harriman and Co., a private banking firm in New York City. He had held that position since 1931.

Mr. Harriman also was honorary chairman, a director and a member of the executive board of the Union Pacific Corp. He had been chairman of the board of directors of the Union Pacific Railroad from 1949 to 1969.

He was appointed president of the American Red Cross by President Truman in 1950 to succeed Gen. George C. Marshall. It was a volunteer position.

Three years later, when a full-time salaried position of president was established by the Red Cross, his title the principal officer on a volunteer basis.

Mr. Harriman was reappointed to the Red Cross by Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. He restired in 1973.

Under his leadership, the American Red Cross developed the largest blood bank system in the world. A partnership between the Red Cross and the United Way was brought about for the purpose of raising funds.

He directed the expansion of Red Cross services during the Korean conflict and Vietnam war; care for the homeless who fled from Hungary in the mid-1950s, and the delivery of drugs and food in 1962 for release of Americans imprisoned in Cuba.

Born in New York City, he was the son of E. H. Harriman, the railroad magnate, and brother of W. Averell Harriman, who became a New York governor and an ambassador.

In addition to being associated with a number of business firms during the years, Mr. Harriman was active in harness racing, often driving in races.

He helped found the U.S. Trotting Association in 1938, and was its honorary chairman at the time of his death. He owned the Arden Homestead Stable and the Historic Track in nearby the board of the Hall of Fame of the Trotter in Goshen.

In addition to his brother, he is survived by his wife, Gladys Fries Harriman, of the home; a daughter, Phyllis Mason, of New York City, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Another daughter Elizabeth H. Bliss, preceded him in death.