Margaret Pope Walker, 79, president of the Washington chapter of Direct Relief International and a founder and member of the board of the Pope Foundation in Chicago, died Friday in an Evanston, Ill., hospital. She had emphysema.

Mrs. Walker was in Chicago on business for the Pope Foundation when she was striken. The foundation, which funds agencies for the physically handicapped, was founded by Mrs. Walker and her father, Henry Pope Sr., a Chicago hosiery manufacturer, in 1961.

A Wisconsin women's state golf champion while attending the University of Wisconsin, she contracted polio and was forced to drop out of college at the age of 20.

Although thereafter confined to a wheelchair, she devoted her life to promoting research and funding for private and public agencies for the handicapped in this country and around the world.

She also went on to earn a bachelor's degree from Northwestern University in 1942 and a master's degree in psychology from Claremont College in California in 1956.

Mrs. Walker helped establish schools for exceptional children in Missouri and illinois in the 1920s and 1930s and was a founder of the Crippled Children's Society and Rehabilitation Center in Palm Springs, Fla., in 1940.

From 1956 to 1968, she visited with social agency and hospital officals in more than 40 countries, including the Soviet Union, to study and report on facilities, treatment methods and care on the handicapped in those countries.

A former writer for the Kansas City Evening Post, where she worked during the 1920s, she wrote free-lance articles and reports dealing with the physically handicapped that were instrumental in helping to eliminate architectural barriers to the handicapped in the public and private sectors.

Mrs. Walker, who was born in Chicago, was a member of the board of the President's People-to-People Committee for the Rehabilitation of the Physically Handicapped for more than 20 years.

In recent years, Mrs. Walker lived with a daughter, Margo Essertier, in Fairfax.

Her first husband, Robert B. Hovey, died in 1954. Her second husband, Edwin B. Walker, a California insurance executive died in 1975.

Besides her daughter, survivors include a son, Robert P. Hovey of San Rafael, Calif,; three brothers, Henry Pope Jr. of Wilmette, Ill., and William P. and John W. Pope, both of Winnetka, Ill., 11 grandchildren and a great-grandson.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Pope Foundation in Chicago.