Alfred H. Golden, 71, former chief counsel of the U.S. Customs Service, died of cancer Sunday in Jacksonville, Fla.

He had joined Customs in 1945 as an attorney in the office of the chief counsel in Washington. From 1947 to 1951, he was assistant solicitor in the Customs office in New York.

Mr. Golden returned to the chief counsel's office here in 1951 as a general attorney. He became chief counsel 15 years later and retired in 1972.

Mr. Golden was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. He was a graduate of the University of Michigan, where he also received a law degree. Before entering government service, he was manager of the legal division of the Continental Casualty Insurance Co. in New York.

While at Customs, he received two Treasury Department Superior Service Awards. He was a member of the Customs Lawyers Association.

He is survived by his wife, the former Alice Alsworth, of the home in Jacksonville; a son, Philip P., of Jacksonville; three daughters, Carolyn Liggitt of Denver, Colo., Kathleen Dunn of New Windsor, Md., and Anne Sheppard of Berkeley Springs, W. Va., nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the American Cancer Society.