Charles Swindell Dixon, 78, who was involved in the growth and development of the city of Washington during his 45 years as chief of utilities for the District highway department, died Thursday at Sibley Memorial Hospital after a stroke.

During the 1920s, Mr. Dixon came to Washington with an engineering firm to work on construction of the Supreme Court building.

In 1930, he became chief of utilities for the highway department, now part of the D.C. Department of Transportation. Major projects he worked on include construction of the DuPont Circle underpass and the Whitehurst Freeway and early planning for the city's Metro subway system. He retired in 1975.

During his early years as highway department utilities chief, Washington was experiencing rapid growth in the number of motor vehicles on its roads, which called for the construction of roads, throughways, bridges and underpasses and overpasses. Mr. Dixon was in charge of all utilities for these projects.

He was born in Durham, N.C., and grew up in Richomond, Va. After attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he worked for engineering companies in the Richmond area for several years.

Mr. Dixon lived in Washington and was a member of the Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church here. He also was a Mason.

Survivors include his wife of 38 years, the former Jane Manherz, of Washington.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the American Heart Association fund.