Richard W. Hall, 72, a retired employe of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, died Monday at Arlington Hospital of viral encephalitis.

Mr. Hall came to this area in the early 1930s. He was a social worker for the old D.C. Welfare Deparment and then joined a federal agency that became part of HEW when the department was created in 1953.

After his retirement from HEW in 1966, he worked as a substitute teacher in Arlington high schools. He also taught courses on Shakespeare and the Bible at Williamsburg Intermediate School and Yorktown Senior High School in Arlington as a volunteer.

Mr. Hall served on the boards of the National Presbyterian Church in Washington and Little Falls Presbyterian Church in Arlington. He also sang in the National Presbyterian Church choir.

He was born in Dallas, and graduated with honors from Yale University, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He also attended the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work.

Mr. Hall served in the Army in Europe during World War II.

Survivors include his wife, Helen, of the home in Arlington; two foster sons, Michael Wright, also of Arlington and Paul Wright, of Oregon, and a brother, Marvin F., of Scarsdale, N.Y.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Richard W. Hall Memorial Fund at Little Falls Presbyterian Church.