Picture, James J. Saxon

James J. Saxon, 65, who made many changes in the nation's banking system during his five controversial years as Comptroller of the Currency, died last night at the Kensington Gardens nursing home.

Mr. Saxon was suffering from Alzheimer's disease, an irreversible for of neurological deterioration.

As comptroller from 1961 to 1966, Mr. Saxon exercised supervisory jurisdiction over national banks, and his new ideas and forceful personality brought new attention and excitement to what had been seen as a prosaic assignment.

Mr. Saxon, who had escaped the Philippines by submarine with $80 million in Allied gold at the outset of World War II, arrived here in 1961 with a 24-page typed list of banking problems and proposals for solving them.

Acting in the name of what he termed modernization and progress, he approved characters for new banks at a much faster rate than predecessors, and made more than 6,000 changes in rules and procedures governing banks.

The innovations were credited with benefiting bank customers' and injecting new vitality and competitive spirit into the 4,800 nationally chartered banks and indirectly into the 9,200 state chartered banks as well.

Feuding at times with the Federal Reserve Board, the Justice Department and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the sometimes flamboyant Mr. Saxon had many critics. Some of them claimed his charter policy permitted establishment of some financially weak banks and suggested his policy may have led to some bank failures.

In response, Mr. Saxon asserted that his critics championed vested interests that feared competition.

"Whatever you think of Jimmy Saxon," one banking official said in 1966 when his term ended, "he shook the cobwebs off the Banker Establishment."

A native of Toledo, Ohio, Mr. Saxon graduated from St. John's College there before coming to Washington for graduate work in finance at Catholic University and a law degree from Georgetown University.

After 15 years with the Treasury Mr. Saxon joined the Democratic National Committee in 1952, then went to work for the American Bankers Association here. He was an official of the First National Bank of Chicago before coming here as comptroller.

After leaving the post he worked in banking and practiced law.

In addition to his wife, Dorothy, of the home in Chevy Chase, survivors include six children, James J. Jr., Stephen, Dorea, Kevin, Catherine and Lucy.