James J. Thomas, 59, a retired cab driver and federal government employe who was a substitute teacher in the D.C. Public Schools, died Friday at the Veterans Administration Hospital after a stroke.

Mr. Thomas was a native of Charlottesville, and a 1949 graduate of Howard University where he earned a degree in political science. He served in the Army during World War II.

He worked for the old Naval Gun Factory for 17 years before retiring as a budget officer in 1961. He also had driven a cab for Capitol, Yellow, and Eastern cab companies for nearly 20 years before retiring from that in the late 1970s.

For the past 10 years, Mr. Thomas had been a substitute social studies teacher in the D.C. Public Schools, doing much of his teaching at Johnson Junior High School in southeast Washington.

He was a resident of southeast Washington and was active in community organizations there. He was editor of a twice-monthly publication, the "Neighborhood News Paper," and had served on the Neighborhood Advisory Commission.

Survivors include his wife, Maudie L., and two daughters, Constance and Carrolyn Thomas, all of Washington, and a sister, Laura Randolph of New York City.