William J. Dougherty Sr., 88, a longtime Interior Department employe who was the Department's director of information from 1951 to 1953, died of an aneurysm Saturday at the Westwood retirement home in Bethesda. He was a resident of Washington.

Mr. Dougherty was a native of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and attended both the University of Pennsylvania and the Pace Institute. He was a newspaperman in Pennsylvania and New York before joining the government in 1936 as a regional director of the old Works Progress Administration in Wilkes-Barre.

He came to Washington in 1937 as information director of the old National Bituminous Coal Commission. The Commission later became part of Interior. During World War II, he worked for the Office of War Information, then returned to the Interior Department. He retired in 1955 as assistant information director.

For the next 10 years he was information director of the Pennsylvania Highway Department in Harrisburg before retiring a second time in 1965 and returning to Washington.

His wife, the former Margaret M. Williams, died in 1966. Mr. Dougherty's survivors include his two sons, William J. Jr., of Oxon Hill, and Robert M., of Washington; two daughters, Margaret M. Cahill of Alexandria and Elizabeth A. Fitzpatrick of Lisle, Ill., and 26 grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Gonzaga High School Development Fund in Washington.