James W. Harris, 70, retired administrative assistant to Sen. Jennings Randolph (D-W. Va.), died of a pulmonary edema Friday at Northern Virginia Doctors Hospital in Arlington.

During the 1958 election campaign, Mr. Harris helped write speeches for Sen. Randolph and Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W. Va.). He also helped both men with their campaign publicity.

Mr. Harris joined Randolph's staff as an executive assistant and press secretary in January 1959, and was named administrative assistant in 1970. He retired four years later.

Randolph said, "Jim Harris and I were associated for many years, both in official life and as close friends. His assistance and advice were invaluable to me."

Mr. Harris was born in Triadelphia, W. Va., and graduated from West Virginia University in 1931.

He worked on newspapers in Morgantown and Wheeling, W. V., and served in the administration of three West Virginia governors.

He was night city editor of the Charleston Gazette for three years before becoming executive secretary of the West Virginia State Democratic Executive Committee in 1956.

Mr. Harris served with the Army War @II. He retired from the Army reserves with the rank of captain after a second tour of active duty in Germany during the Korean conflict.

His wife, Mary, died in 1959.

He is survived by two sons, Richard, of Vienna, and Robert, of Alexandria, and three grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the American Diabetes Association, 1036 Quarrier St., Charleston, W.Va., 25301.