William Cabell Grayson, 58, special coordinator for telecommunications at the Smithsonian Institution, died of cancer Tuesday at his home in Washington.

He joined the Smithsonian in 1964 and had a key role in developing its public information and radio-television programs.

A recent film, "Mirrors on the Universe: The MMT Story," won a Golden Eagle award from the Council on International Non-Theatrical Events (CINE) and a Gold Cindy from the Information Film Producers of America.

In 1977, Mr. Grayson helped produce "The Smithsonian Institution with S. Dillon Ripley," which won seven major awards, including a Washington Emmy.

Ripley, the secretary of the Smithsonian, said yesterday:

"His (Mr. Grayson's) memory will live on through the innovative programs he helped establish to broaden the links between the public and the institution."

Mr. Grayson had helped coordinate production of a film for the James Smithson bicentennial celebration in 1965 and of "The Smithsonian," a series of 26 half-hour programs shown on network TV in 1966-67.

His initiative led to creation of the Smithsonian Visitor Information and Associates Reception Center. More than 2,300 volunteers contributed their time in 1979 to work at the Smithsonian through the center's programs.

Mr. Grayson was born in Washington. A graduate of St. Albans School, he attended the University of the South in Tennessee and graduated from Yale University with the class of 1944.

He enlisted in the Marine Corps in World War II and saw duty in the Pacific, including the invasion of Leyte in the Philippines. He was discharged with the rank of first lieutenant and remained in the Marine Corps Reserves until retiring with the rank of captain in 1958.

Mr. Grayson had worked for 14 years at the National Broadcasting Co. in Washington, where he became program manager for WRC-TV and WRC-Radio before joining the Smithsonian.

He was a partner, with his brothers, Gordon and Cary, in breeding thoroughbred horses at Blue Ridge Farm in Upperville, Va. They also operated another family farm in Culpepper County.

Mr. Grayson had conducted a program of breeding and banding ducks from his Virginia farms in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He was a former president and chairman of the board of the Audubon Naturalist Society of the Central Atlantic States.

He was a member of the Virginia Commission for the Arts, a director of CINE and the Washington Film Council and a member of the Committee of 100 for the Federal City.

Mr. Grayson was a former board member of St. Albans School and the National Capital Area Council of the Boy Scouts, a founding director of the Upper Fauquier Association and a member of the D.C. Mayor's Committee on International Visitors and the Federal Interagency Media Council. He had served on the vestry of Trinity Episopal Church in Upperville, and belonged to the Alibi, Metropolitan and Chevy Chase clubs. u

He is survived by his wife, the former Janet Ketchum; three children. William Jr., Katherin Mary and George, and two brothers, Gordon and Cary, all of Washington and Upperville.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Audubon Naturalist Society of the Central American States, St. Albans School or Yale University, class of 1944 Fund.