John W. syphax, 69, a retired State Department intelligence official a life-long Washington resident, died of an apparent heart attack Wednesday at his home in Washington. He had asthma.

Mr. Syphax was a graduate of Dunbar High School and Howard University. He earned a master's degree at Cornell university and did two more years of graduate work at Harvard University. He taught political science at Howard from 1936 to 1938.

He began his career in intelligence work with the Office of Strategic Services in World War II. He was a biographic analyst with the OSS from 1943 to 1945. He joined the State Department in 1945 and continued this work, becoming chief of the Japanese section of the biographic information division in 1948.

From 1950 to 1960, Mr. Syphax was an intelligence research specialist at State. From 1960 to 1962, he was chief of the government branch of the external research staff. In 1962, he became a Foreign Service officer and was assigned to the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency until his retirement in 1973.

Mr. Syphax's survivors include his wife, the former Melba Wells, whom he married in 1935, of the home; three children, Dr. John L., of Washington, Melba S. Bryan, of Reston, and McCune W., of Landover; a sister, Elizabeth S. Johnson, of Washington, and five grandchildren.