Dr. James R. Anderson, 61, the chief geographer of the U.S. Geological Survey and a former chairman of the department of geography at the University of Florida, died of leukemia Wednesday at Fairfax Hospital.

Dr. Anderson, who was born in Whitaker, Ind., earned a bachelor's degree from Indiana University. During World War II, he served in the Navy in the Pacific and then returned to Indiana and earned a master's degree in geography. He took a doctorate in geography at the University of Maryland in 1950 and for the next two years was an assistant professor there.

In 1952, Dr. Anderson joined the Department of Agriculture, where he was a geographer and agricultural economist until 1960.

He was chairman of the department of geography at the University of Florida from 1960 until 1972. He then was appointed chief geographer of the Geological Survey and scientific adviser of the director.

Dr. Anderson, who lived in Reston, was a member of various technical committees of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Foundation. He also was vice chairman of the U.S. National Committee for the International Geographical Union, chairman of the U.S. Board of Geographic Names and vice president of the Asociation of American Geographers.

Survivors include his wife, Joy Elaine Anderson of Reston; two sons, James Richard Jr. of Tallahassee, Fla., and John W. of Reston; two daughters, Judyth Sue Anderson, of Tallahassee, and Janine Joy Anderson of Reston; two brothers, Herb Anderson of Indianapolis, and Max Anderson of Gosport, Ind; two sisters, Ruth Broyer of Columbus, Ind., and Maxine Seibert Wolfe of Hyattsville, and one grandson.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Association of American Geographers, or to the Leukemia Society of America.