James J. Finley, 61, a retired government employe who lived in this area for more than 30 years before moving to California in 1973, died of cancer March 22 in a hospital in San Bernardino, Calif.

Dr. Finley was a native of South Dakota and came to Washington in the early 1940s to work as a clerk at the old War Department.

After the serving with the Army in the Pacific during World War II, he returned to Washington and was a topographic draftsman with the Soil Conservation Service before joining the Census Bureau in the 1950s.

He later was a management analyst with the Coast and Geodetic Survey, and then spent five years teaching courses in finance and budgeting with the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. He retired from the government in 1973.

Dr. Finley lived in Beltsville and Washington before moving to San Bernardino. He had earned bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in public administration at American University.

He was a member of the faculty at George Washington University from the mid-1960s to early 1970s, and later taught courses in public administration at California State College at San Bernardino. He was chairman of the School of Public Administration there from 1976 to 1979.

Dr. Finley's survivors include his wife, Helen L., of San Bernardino; three daughters, Dawnell Foskey of Salisbury, Md., Linda J. Matz of Eagle Butte, S.D., and Sandra J. Finley of Allston, Mass.; a brother, John, and a sister, Alice Nickel, both of Pierre, S.D., and three grandchildren.