Dr. Harry B. Rutherford Sr., 69, a retired administrator with the D.C. public school system, died of cancer Monday at a hospital in Columbia, S.C. A resident of Washington, he was visiting relatives in South Carolina.

Dr. Rutherford came to Washington to join the D.C. schools in 1965. He worked in the Public Schools Office of Educational Programs and Services and served as assistant principal of Coolidge Senior High, Paul Junior High and Burdick Vocational High before retiring in 1978.

He also had been an education instructor and academic dean of Benedict College in Columbia, S.C., for a time in the mid-1970s while on leave from the D.C. school system.

He was a member of the National Education Association, the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the American Educational Research Association.

Dr. Rutherford was a native of Columbia, S.C., and a graduate of Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, N.C. He earned a master's degree at New York Univerisy and a doctoral degree in education at Harvard University.

He was a principal of a high school in Columbia, S.C., for nearly 15 years before moving to Washington.

His wife, Dr. Evaretta Sims Rutherford, died in 1978. Survivors include two sons, Dr. Harry B. Jr., of Columbia and Dr. William Henry, of Washington, a sister, Carolyn Watson of New York City, and five grandchildren.

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