James R. Vinson, 49, a senior staff member of the Appalachian Regional Commission, died Wednesday at a Hendersonville, N.C., hospital following a heart attack.

A resident of Rockville, he had been in Hendersonville on commission business when he was stricken.

He had joined the commission in 1967, and had worked with regional officials of the 13 Applachian states helping to formulate economic development programs.

Mr. Vinson was a native of Louisa, Ky., and grew up in Washington where he attended St. Alban's School and George Washington University. He also had attended Centre College in Danville, Ky.

He had worked as a doorkeeper in the House of Representatives while attending college.

He was the son of Fred Vinson, chief justice of the United States from 1946 until his death in 1953. tr for add one.

Mr. Vinson had served as an officer in the Army Corps of Engineers in the Pacific during the mid-1950s. He then worked as a sales representative for Ashland Oil in Ohio and Kentucky before returning here about 15 years ago.

He is survived by his wife, the former Margaret Byrd Russell, and three sons, James Jr., Michael and Matthew, all of the home; a daughter, Colo; his mother, Roberta Vinson, of Washington, and a brother, Fred Vinson Jr. of Westmoreland Hills, Md.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the American Heart Association.