James William Ferguson Jr., 79, a retired Navy commander and Department of Defense employe, died of cardiac arrest Friday at the Powhatan Nursing Home in Falls Church. He lived in Oakton.

From 1928 until 1941, Mr. Ferguson traveled throughout Central and South America, Scandanavia and England as an international representative of the B.F. Goodrich Co.

When the U.S.declared war on Japan after the bombing at Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Mr. Ferguson was recalled from Scandinavia to head B.F. Goodrich's Washington operations.

From 1942 to 1946, he was a Navy commander assigned to the Department of the Navy, where he was in charge of the development of industrial products. oHe received the Legion of Merit for this work.

After the war, Mr. Ferguson became a civilian employe of the office of the Secretary of Defense, from which he retired in 1960.

Mr. Ferguson was born in Waynesville, N.C. In 1924 he graduated from the U.s. Naval Academy in Annapolis.

Survivors include his wife of 45 years, the former Mary Rosalind Hamilton of Oakton, and a sister, Mrs. William Hargadine Jr., of Fayetteville, Pa.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the American Cancer Society.