John E. McClure, 87, a retired Washington lawyer who was appointed a special ambassador to the Middle East and Mexico by president Dwight D. Eisenhower, died Thursday at his Chevy Chase home of arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease.

Mr. McClure was born and reared on a farm in West Virginia. After serving in the Army in World War I, he moved here and earned a law degree at George Washington University in 1923. He was in private practice for more than 40 years and retired in the 1960s from the firm of McClure & McClure. He was a retired Army Reserve major.

Besides serving as a U.S. special ambassador, Mr. McClure was active in civic matters. At the time of his death, he was a director of the Boys' Clubs of Greater Washington and of the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington. cHe was a former member of the Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade.

In 1960, he was president of the Circus Saints and Sinners, which raises funds for needy circus performers and charitable institutions. He was a former golf champion of the Burning Tree Club in Bethesda and belonged to the Barristers and Lebanon lodges of the Masons and Larry's Creek Fishing and Game Club. He was a former member of the Metropolitan Club.

His first wife, the former Helen Pendleton, died in 1946 and a son from that marriage, John Pendleton McClure, died in 1977. His second wife, the former Helen Muller, died in the mid-1960s.

Survivors include a son from his first marriage, William P., of Bethesda; three children from his second marriage, Arthur A. and John E., both of Allentown, Pa., and Joan McNamara, of Middletown, Md., eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.