James Arthur Whitehead, 88, a retired chef for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and a local resident for 59 years, died Saturday at his Washington home following a heart attack.

A native of Hawkinsville, Ga., Mr. Whitehead was a Navy mess steward in World War I. After his discharge in 1919, he moved to Washington. He was a chef with the Atlantic Coast Frieght Lines and the old Seaboard Airline before joining the B&O Railroad. He retired from the railroad in 1945 because of a head injury.

Following his retirement, he worked for this brother's Washington real estate firm, Whithead Realty Co., until five years ago.

Mr. Whitehead was a member of Metropolitan Baptist Church for 50 years and was active in the church's Sunday school class.

He also was a longtime member of the Masonic Corinthian Lodge No. 18 of Prince Hall.

Survivors include two children, Ralph T., of the home in Washington, and Velma E. Pryor, of Delmar, N.Y.; a brother, William, and a sister, Bertha McGriff, both of Washington; seven grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Sunday School class at Metropolitan Baptist Church in Washington.