Norman L. Shelton, 61, an official of a local wholesale beer distribution firm, died of cardiac arrest Tuesday at his home in Arlington.

In February 1970, he became sales manager of the Ballantine division of Premium Distributors, and was later named executive vice president and general manager of Premium's Miller High Life distribution operations in Washington and Northern Virginia.

Mr. Shelton was a native of Washington. He joined the sales force of the old Christian Heurich Brewing Co. of Washington after graduating from McKinley Tech High School in 1935.

He later worked for P. Ballantine and Sons as manager of its Washington operations.

Mr. Shelton served in the Army Air Corps during World War II.

He was first vice president of the Sales and Marketing Executives of Metropolitan Washington and was named that organization's salesman of the year in 1977.

He had been treasurer of the Washington Beer Wholesalers and a member of the national advisory board of the National Beer Wholesalers Association.

Mr. Shelton had served as an adviser to the D.C. Chamber of Commerce and was on the Washington advisory board of the National Jewish Hospital and Research Center in Denver.

He is survived by his wife, the former Marguerite Cook, of the home; a son, Terry, of East Lansing, Mich.; a brother, Paul E., of Rockville; a sister, Catherine E. Mitchell, of Upper Marlboro, and two grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the American Heart Association or the Jewish Hospital and Research Center.