John Joy (Jack) Kauffmann, 54, president of The Washington Star when control of that newspaper by a three-family dynasty came to an end in 1974, died of throat cancer Tuesday at Washington Hospital Center.

A member of the fourth generation of Kauffmanns to be associated with the newspaper, he took over as president in 1968 and helped steer the publication for the next six years. He also was active in numerous civic and charitable works.

During his tenure as president of The Star, the newspaper purchased the Washington Daily News in an effort to bolster sagging circulation and advertising. The move was unsuccessful and the combined newspapers, in turn, were sold to a Texas millionaire banker.

Mr. Kauffmann had been involved in the business operations of The Star for nearly 20 years when he became president. Both his father and his great-grandfather had held that same position.

He had acquired the job only after a traumatic struggle among the newspaper's owners.

Three families were involved in the struggle. They owned the stock of the Evening Star Newspaper Co. and the Washington Star Communications Inc., a holding company for the newspaper and other interests, including broadcasting stations.

Most of the family members, some of whom were working at The Staror in Star-owned broadcasting stations in 1968, were direct descendants of the three men who had bought the Star in 1867 -- Samuel H. Kauffmann, Crosby S. Noyes and George W. Adams.

After Jack Kauffmann finally was selected as president, he shared responsibility for publishing the newspaper with Newbold Noyes Jr., who had been editor since 1963.

Mr. Kauffmann made a point of not interfering with the handling of news stories and editorials. He concentrated on the business aspects of the newspaper and its holding company.

He was prepared. After joining The Star in 1949, he had received extensive training in its circulation, production and advertising departments.

In 1954, he became assistant advertising manager, and a year later, assistant treasurer and assistant business manager. He was named business manager in 1957 and was elected vice president of the Evening Star Newspaper Co. in 1963.

One of Mr. Kauffmann's major decisions came in 1972 when The Star acquired the name, circulation lists and other assets of the Washington Daily News, the Scripps-Howard newspaper in the nation's capital. The Star thus became the city's only afternoon paper.

The Star, once the leading newspaper in this city and an extremely wealthy operation, which for many years had been a leading national opinion maker, had lost its top position since The Washington Post purchased the Washington Times-Herald in 1954, gaining control of the morning field.

Mr. Kauffmann said later that both he and Newbold Noyes knew The Star was in trouble in the mid-1950s... "but the only answer I ever had to it was to buy out the Daily News.

"We should have bought the News when we were ahead, not when we were going to hell," he said in that interview, given in 1976.

In that same interview, Noyes said of Mr. Kauffman: "I think he protected the quality of the paper as well as he could. He made the right response, finally, in buying the News, and he made the right decision in bringing Allbritton in when it became clear that we didn't have the money for the next two or three years to take advantage of what we'd done (in buying the News)."

Noyes was referring to Joe L. Allbritton, the Texas millionaire who eventually took control of The Star and the other holdings of Washington Star Communications Inc. Opening the door to Allbritton had been another major decision for Mr. Kauffmann.

Two months after Allbritton acquired the newspaper in September 1974, in a $25 million deal, Mr. Kauffmann resigned as president. He relinquished his post as president of Washington Star Communications in December of that year but remained as a director until Allbritton gained complete control in 1976.

At the time Mr. Kauffman resigned as president of The Star, Allbritton praised him for his "dedicated service" to the newspaper and the community.

"Fortunately, we will be able to call on Jack for his advice and expertise and Washington will continue to benefit from his civic-minded assistance as he pursues other important areas of development," Allbritton said.

The list of Mr. Kauffman's civic activities was formidable, dating back to the early part of his newspaper career. He had served on the local boards of the American Red Cross and the American Cancer Society and had been chairman of the Cancer Crusade here.

He had served as chairman of the membership and budget committees of the National Capital Area Health and Welfare Council.

He was a director-at-large of the Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade and chairman of its Economic Development Bureau. He had been a director of the Better Business Bureau and a member of the Federal City Council. He also had participated in Junior Achievement, a national program to teach business skills to high school students. He had served on the National Capital Downtown Committee.

Mr. Kauffman was born in Washington. He graduated in 1943 from the Choate School in Wallingford, Conn.

During World War II, he served two years in Europe with the Army Air Corps and was awarded the Air Medal. After the war, he attended Princeton University, the alma mater of many Kauffmanns, where he graduated in 1947.

After he left The Star, Mr. Kauffmann worked with President Ford's Clemency Review Board, set up to handle the return to this country of draft resisters and military deserters who had fled during the Vietnam era.

He remained a director until his death of a number of companies, including Columbia Palograph Co., North American Philips Co., Peoples Life Insurance Co. and American Finance System, Inc.

Mr. Kauffmann became chairman of the board of John J. Enterprises Ltd., of Washington and New York City, primarily a consulting firm. Last fall the company became the distributor for government and international sales for a new automobile maker, the U.S. Electricar Corp.

He had been on the board of directors of the National Symphony Orchestra and on the advisory board of the Boy Scouts Council. He had been active in the Variety Club, the Advertising Club of Washington and the American Newspaper Publishers Association.

Mr. Kauffmann belonged to the Metropolitan, Chevy Chase and Alfalfa clubs.

His marriage to the former Laura Allen ended in divorce in 1958.

He is survived by his second wife, the former Patricia Bellinger, and a son, John Hoy II, of the home in-McLean; four children by his first marriage, Bruce Gordon and Louise Miriam Kauffmann, both of Washington, and Samuel Hay IV and Margaret Ellen Kauffmann, both of Boston; his mother, Miriam Hoy Kauffmann, of Washington; a sister, Joan Lamphere, of Bethesda, and a brother, Samuel H. III, of Palo Alto, Calif.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Garfield Memorial Fund at Washington Hospital Center or to CARE.