John Hervey Wheeler, 70, a North Carolina lawyer and banker who was active in civil rights organizations, died Thursday at his Durham home after an apparent heart attack.

Mr. Wheeler had been president of the black-owned Mechanics and Farmers Bank in Durham since 1952. He had joined the bank as a teller in 1929.

He was appointed to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by then President John F. Kennedy in 1961. He also advised then vice president Lyndon B. Johnson on civil rights legislation.

Mr. Wheeler later served under president Johnson as vice chairman of the National Advisory Committee of the Community Relations Service.

A state Democratic Party official in North Carolina, he was named assistant treasurer in 1968 and later financial director. In 1964, he become the first black person in North Carolina's history to serve as a delegate to a Democratic National Convention.

Mr. Wheeler was a member of the North Carolina legal staff of the NAACP, and a member of the Southern Regional Council.

He was born in Kittrell, N.C. He earned a bachelor's degree at Morehouse College and a law degree at North Carolina College in Durham.

Mr. Wheeler had been chairman of the Durham Urban Redevelopment Commission and vice president of the United Fund in Durham. He was a member of the board of trustees of Morehouse College and Atlanta University.

Mr. Wheeler belonged to a number of professional organizations, including the American Bankers Association, and had served as president of the National Negro Bankers Association.

He was a 32nd degree Mason and a Shriner.

He is survived by his wife, Selena W., of the home in Durham; a son, Warren H., of Norfolk; a daughter, Julia W. Taylor, of Raleigh, N.C., and two sisters, Ruth W. Lowe, of Durham, and Margery W. Brown, of Newark, N.J.