Retired Army lieutenant colonel Charles Edward Brown Jr., 59, a D.C. public school teacher and administrator who retired last May as principal of Bell Vocational High School, died Wednesday at Howard University Hospital. He suffered from cancer.

He has entered the school system after active duty with the Army in World War II, teaching at th Veterans High Schools Center at Armstrong High School here. He later head teacher and chairman of shop management.

Col. Brown then taught military science and tactics at Bell until 1968, when he was named assistant principal of Coolidge High School.He served there for three years until returning to Bell as principal.

While at the Veterans High School Center, Col. Brown was baseball coach and assistant basketball coach. He also coached baseball at Phelps Vocational High School and golf at Bell, where he sponsored the rifle team.

He served with the D.C. Commissioners Youth Council, which awarded him its Certificate of Appreciation in 1966. He was active in the Washington Urban League, the Columbia Heights Community Project, the Central and Northeast civic associations and the Boy Scouts.

During his career as an educator, Col. Brown also remained active in the Army Reserve. He had enlisted in October 1941, served in the infantry, saw action in the Pacific and was commissioned in the field.

Remaining in the Army Reserve after the war, he rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel before his retirement in 1971.

In 1964, Col. Brown, then a Reserve major, was with Lemuel A. Penn, a D.C. school official and Army Reserve officer when Penn was shot to death in the small Georgia town of Colbert, not far from Athens.

Brown and another Reserve officer, John D. Howard, escaped injury. All three were returning to this city from summer training at Fort Benning, Ga. Two Ku Klux Klansmen later were convicted in Penn's slaying.

Col. Brown was born in Thomasville, Ga. He graduated from Georgia State College in Savannah, and in 1967 earned a master's degree from New York University. He took post-graduate studies also at Howard University.

He was a member of the NAACP, the Reserve Officers Association, the National Education Association, the American Vocational Association and The National Associations of Secondary School principals. He was on the board of the Pigskin Club of Washington.

He is survived by his wife, Cornelia Ellen Lampkin, a daughter, Cornelia Ellen, and a son, Charles Robert, all of the home in Washington; a sister, Juanita Harper, of Harrisburg, Pa., and a brother, retired Army Maj. Lorris E., of Jacksonville, Fla.