Buckingham Community, one of the oldest and largest garden apartment complexes in Arlington, was sold yesterday to a Columbus, Ohio, developer as part of a real estate package totaling nearly $50 million.

The sale, which is expected to be completed formally in the next few weeks, was announced by Gerald Freed, president and major stock-holder in Paramount Communities, which includes the 1,800-unit Buckingham complex.

Also in the package sold to developer James B. Klingbeil were the 520-unit Claremont Apartments and a small shopping center on S. Walter Reed Drive, a small shopping center on N. Glebe Road near Buckingham and two high-rise apartment buildings, Hyde Park and Chatham, both near Buckingham.

The sale, which Arlington officials called one of the largest real estate transactions in the country in recent years, involves nearly 200 aires, according to Freed.

Frank Stavroff, an assistant to Klingbeil, said the developer had no immediate plans to convert the 3,000 apartments involved into condominiums or to renovate them.

"Our approach is to continue the operation as rentals," he said. "We have not made any decision to conver at this time."

Although it is a public corporation, 90 percent of the stock in Paramount Communities is owned by the Freed family, who built Buckingham in 1937. In those days, according to tenants who had lived in the complex for 40 years, Buckingham was considered a model apartment complex.

The small shopping center adjacent to the sprawling red brick apartments houses the Washington area's first Drug Fair. According to Freed, Drug Fair president Milton Elsberg, once lived in Buckingham.

Twelve years ago Buckingham was the scene of a bitter struggle over the segregated housing there. Members of the Ku Klux Klan, dressed in ceremonial robes, picketed the rental office in support of the whites-only rental policies. Members of a local fair housing group repeatedly picketed the complex in protest of those policies.

As recently as 1968, the former general manager of Paramount Communities told a Federal Trade Commission hearing on deceptive advertising that although a few applications had been received from blacks, Buckingham, Claremont and Chatham rented only to white tenants.

In recent years, because of its proximity to downtown Washington and apartment to $310 for a three-bedroom unit.

The Claremont project in South Arlington also provides a substantial part of Arlington's stock of moderately priced apartments.

Freed, 58, said he had been trying to sell Paramount Communities since January 1977 because of the taxes on the property and his age. Developer Klinbeil, 41, owns 18,000 apartment units around the country, including Pennsbury Village Apartments in Springfield.