John R. Miles, 72, a retired manager of the education department of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce who was active in Falls Church civic affairs, died Wednesday at State College Community Hospital in State College, Pa. He had emphysema.

Dr. Miles first came to Washington as a Navy officer during World War II. He remained here after the war and joined the Chamber of Commerce in 1947 after a year with the U.S. Office of Education. Named manager of the chamber's education department in 1955, he held that post until his retirement in 1971.

He was a resident of Falls Church from 1946 until 1976, when he moved to Bellefonte. Pa., near State College, to be near a daughter, Mary M. Dupuis.

Dr. Miles became a member of the first Falls Church school board in 1949 when Falls Church became an independent city. He served one term then and later served on the school board from 1963 to 1968.

He was born in Bellefontaine, Ohio. He attended Arizona State University and earned a bachelor's degree from Miami University in Ohio. He earned master's and doctoral degrees in education from Ohio State University.

Dr. Miles' wife, Nelle, died in 1974.

In addition to Mrs. Dupuis, survivors include a son, John R. Jr., of Washington, and five grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Nelle H. Miles Memorial Scholarship Fund, c/o Ronald R. Kilbourne, Falls Church High School, 7521 Jaguar Trail, Falls Church.