Retired Air Force Col. Leon Booth, 74, a World War II veteran who served as a public information officer here for nine years before retiring from active duty in 1959, died of cancer Thursday in the Fairfax Nursing Center.

After leaving active duty, he worked for the Air Force as a civilian public affairs officer in Washington. Among his other posts, he was associate editor of "IG Magazine," a monthly publication of the Air Force Inspector General's office, and worked in the Air Force Systems Command before retiring a second time in 1976.

Col. Booth was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army reserves in 1932 and was called to active duty in 1940. During World War II, he served in the artillery in North Africa and Italy where he earned the Bronze Star Medal and the Legion of Merit. He joined the Air Force when it became a separate service in 1947.

He came to Washington in 1950 as a public information officer, and was a resident of Alexandria. He was stationed in Baltimore for two years before returning to Washington in 1955 as an official in the office of the Secretary of Defense. He was special assistant for information services to the Air Force's deputy chief of staff for development at the time he retired.

He was a member of the board of governors of the National Aeronautic Association, a member of the National Science Writers Association, and a contributing editor to both "Ordnance Magazine" and Colliers Encyclopedia.

Col. Booth was born in East Point, La., and was a journalist and advertising and public relations agency president in Louisiana before World War II.

Survivors include his wife, Thelma Harrison Booth of Alexandria a son, retired Air Force Maj. Leon Booth Jr. of Los Angeles, and three grandchildren.

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