Ward W. Griffith III, 59, a retired Navy commander who had been working as a civilian employe of the Navy since the mid-1960s, died Monday at Bethesda Naval Hospital. He suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

Following his 1962 retirement from active Navy duty, Mr. Griffith worked briefly for the Westinghouse Corp., and then became a senior project and safety enginner at the Naval Ship Engineering Center.

Mr. Griffith was a native of Washington and a 1936 graduate of old Central High School. He was a 1942 graduate of the Naval Academy at Annapolis.

He served aborad destroyers in the Atlantic and Pacific during World War II. He commanded the destroyers Cobb and Benner and attended postgraduate classes at the Navil Academy

He is survived by his wife, Rene, and a son, Ronald, both of the home in Bethesda; another son, Ward, of Gaithersburg; a daughter, Faye Baumgarner, of Washington; three sisters, Faye Kuzmuk, of Long Key, Fla., Doris Quill, of Severna Park, and Patricia Noack, of Towson, and two brothers, Ned, of Rockville, and John, of Shady Side, Md.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Society in Sherman Oaks, Calif.