Charles J. Nelson, 65, retired director of program development and special projects in the office of public affairs of the old Civil Service Commission, died Feb. 20 at Fairfax Hospital after a heart attack.

He had retired in 1974 after 22 years with CBC, now the Office of Personnel Management. One of his major projects was serving as coordinator of a federal science exhibit, "The Vision of Man," which was put together by 10 agencies in 1964 and traveled around the country by train for several years.

Mr. Nelson was born in Chicago. He was a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism of Northwestern University. He was a reporter for the Joliet Herald-News in Illinois prior to World War II.

He served in the Army Air Forces during the war and was a press representative for the band directed by Glenn Miller, who was then a major in the Army Air Forces. Miller vanished in 1944 on a flight from near London to Paris. There were no members of the band with him.

Later Mr. Nelson was a press officer in the Pacific before leaving active military duty in 1946. He continued as a civilian in the Air Force, working with the Strategic Air Command in Omaha, Neb., until joining the CSC. He was with the regional office in St. Paul, Minn., before coming to Washington in 1953.

Mr. Nelson was a member of the National Press Club and Sigma Delta Chi, Honorary journalism society.

He is survived by his wife, Helen M., and three children, Charles J. Jr., Bethis M. and Scott F., all of the home in McLean; and his mother, Bethia H. Nelson, and two sisters, Margaret N. Little and Alice N. Kieft, all of Warrenville, Ill.