Dr. Charles H. Thompson, 84, the dean emeritus of the Graduate School at Howard University who was active in civil rights and education organizations, died Wednesday, at the Carroll Manor Nursing Home in Hyattsville after a heart attack.

Dr. Thompson began a 40-year career with Howard University in 1926. He was an associate professor, professor and chairman in the department of education and was dean of the liberal arts college before becoming dean of the graduate school in the mid-1940s.

He had served on the national board of the NAACP for several years and with the legal defense and education fund.

Dr. Thompson was a United States representative to UNESCO from 1946 to 1949, and was a member of the American Council on Education's committe on discrimination in higher education from 1948 to 1957.

He was a founder of the "Journal of Negro Education" in 1932 and served as that publication's editor for the next 30 years. He also had been an editorial consultant to both "Nations Schools" and the World Book Encyclopedia.

He was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and member of both the National Education Association and the American Asociation for Higher Education.

Dr. Thompson was a native of Jackson, Miss., where his parents, the Rev. Patrick H. and Sara E. Thompson both were teachers at Jackson College.

After graduating with high honors from the Virginia Union University in Richmond in 1917, he enrolled in the University of Chicago where he earned a second bachelor's degree in 1918. He earned a master's degree there two years later, and in 1925 a doctoral degree, cum laude.

He served with the Army in Europe during World War I.

He was awarded honorary degrees by both Virginia Union University and Morgan State College.

Dr. Thompson's wife, Mae S. Thompson, died in 1975. He leaves no immediate survivors.