James M. Westby, 77, a retired personnel specialist with the Department of Agriculture's Farmers Home Administration, died Monday at Arlington Hospital Following a heart attack.

Dr. Westby joined the Farmers Home Administration in 1939 in Raleigh, N.C. He also worked for the administration in Cincinnati before transferring to Washington in 1944. He was a personnel staffing and classification specialist when he retired in 1971.

He was born in Rushford, Minn. He graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and earned a doctorate in adult education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1940.

Dr. Westby had lived in Arlington for 35 years and was a longtime member of the Luther Place Memorial Church in Washington.

He was active in the consumer cooperative movement and had served as chairman of the education and leadership development committee for Greenbelt Consumer Services. He also was a member of the Consumer Cooperative Alliance and the Cooperative League of the U.S.A.

He was a member of the Adult Education Association of the U.S.A., the Viking Club of the Department of Agriculture and the Washington School of Psychiatry.

Survivors include his wife. Virginia, of the home in Arlington; a son, James E., of New York City; two sisters, Mildred Gjerdrun, of Mabel, Minn., and Ella Lodsten, of Rushford; and two brothers, George, of Arlington Heights, Ill., and Joe, of Hot Springs, Ark.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Luther Place Memorial Church in Washington.