Melbourne C. Steele, 73, retired chief accountant of the Federal Trade Commission and an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints, died Sunday at his home in Chevy Chase. He had emphysema.

Mr. Steele retired in 1971, after 44 years with the federal government. He started work in 1927 as a Senate mail clerk. He became an accountant with the FTC two years later. He had been chief accountant since 1966.

He was born in Melbourne, Australia, the son of Mormon missioaries. He grew up in Idaho Falls, Idaho, and attended the University of Idaho.

While working in the Seate, Mr. Steele earned a degree in accounting from Benjamin Franklin University here.

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he had been a stake missionary here. He had been a clerk of Chevy Chase Ward Chapel, Sunday School superintendent, librarian of the genealogical library and a leader of the High Priest Group. He was appointed an ordinance worker of the Washington Temple in 1974.

He is survived by his wife of 52 years, the former Marcia Christensen, of Chevy Chase; two daughters, Berenice Theurer of Darnestown, Md., and Patricia Rommey of Salt Lake City; a brother, John Winton Steele of Kensington; two sisters, Sonoma Burroughs of Westwood, Calif., and Sue Shurleff of Pocatella, Idaho; 13 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.