Vice President Walter F. Mondale and the nation's military leadership stood in the cold on a hillside in Arlington National Cemetery yesterday to pay final tribute to Daniel (Chappie) James Jr., the first black to become a four-star general in the U.S. armed services.

Mondale, who represented President Carter, escorted Gen. Jame's wife, Dorothy Watkins James, during the graveside ceremonies. With them were the general's three children and other members of his family and numerous dignitaries, including Defense Secretary Harold Brown, members of the Joint Chief of Staff, former Defense secretary Melvin R. Laird and Donald Rumsfeld, and members of Congress.

Gen. James, 53, died Saturday at the Air Force Academy Hospital in Colorado Springs after a heart attack. His death came less than a month after his retirement from the Air Force.

On Wednesday night, about 1,800 people, including President Carter's son, Chip, attended a mass of resurrection offered for Gen. James at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. Hundreds of others filed past his casket before and after the service.

Maj. Gen. Henry J. Meade, the Air Force chief of chaplains, recalled during the mass that Gen. James had been born in Pemsacola, Fla., and had grown up in an almost totally segregated society. He said the general had achieved his ambitions despite the obstacles in his way. Gen. James was a fighter pilot who fought in three wars.

The burial yesterday was conducted with full military honors. The Air Force honor guard and the Air Force Band were on parade. Gen. James's casket was taken to the gravesite in Arlington on an artillery caisson drawn by six black horses.

Chaplain Meade conducted a brief graveside service. Seven airmen fired the three rifle volleys that are traditional at all military funerals whatever the rank of the deceased.

Eight airmen folded the American flag that had covered Gen. James's casket. A bugler played taps. An airman furled the personal flag of Gen. James with the four stars of his rank on it. The American flag that had lain on the casket was presented to Mrs. James. The troops marched off.

The service was over.