Retired Army Col. James W. Rice, 85, an authority on rug cleaning and the preservation of ancient textiles who spent 29 years with the Old Army Chemical Warfare Service, died Thursday at Montgomery County General Hosptial. He had cancer and emphysema.
Col. Rice was born in Omaha. He graduated from the University of Nevada and earned a master's degree in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
During World War I, he served in the Coast Artillery and as a gas officer with the 8th Infantry Division in France. Prior to World War II, he was an intelligence officer in China and Japan.
He then joined the Chemical Warfare Service. He was commanding officer of the service's training center at Camp Sibert in Alabama and president of the Chmical Warfare Service Board at Edgewood Arsenal, Md. He retired in 1945.
After his military retirement, Col. Rice joined the staff of the National Institute of Dry Cleaning. In 1949, he was named director of research for the National Institute of Rug Cleaning, from which he retired in 1959.
He became a consultant and textile conservationist with the Textile Museum, the National Park Service and the Smithsonian Institution.
Among the important historical artifacts Col. Rice was instrumental in restoring and preserving, are the suit President Lincoln wore when assassinated, President Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Rider uniform and a flag from his days in the Spanish-American War and President Kennedy's christening gown.
Col. Rice, a resident of Collingswood Nursing Center in Silver Spring, had been retired for the last five years.
He was a Mason and a member of the Hadji Baba oriental rug club and the Ashlar Club in Aberdeen, Md.
His military decorations included the Legion of Merit.
Col. Rice's first wife, Blanche, died in 1952.
Survivors include his wife, Ann, of Silver Spring; a son, James W. Jr., of Bel Air, Md.; a daughter, Imogene Schultz, of Appleton, Wis., nine grandchildren and one great-grandson.