J. Paul Freeman, 71, a retired principal string bass player in the United States Army Band, "Pershing's Own," died at his home in Arlington April 4 of a stroke and kidney failure.

Mr. Freeman, who was born in Brighton, Ala., attended what is now Samford University in Birmingham, majoring in economics. He also was director of the college band and first string bass in the Birmingham Civic Symphony Orchestra.

In 1937, he moved to Washington to join the National Symphony Orchestra, then under the direction of Dr. Hans Kindler. He also played with dance bands in the area. During World War II, he served in the Army in the China-Burma-India theater and received a field commission.

After the war, he returned to Washington and joined "Pershing's Own," in which he held the rank of master sergeant. He retired in 1968.

For the next six years, he collected, restored, and sold old string instruments. He also was the agent for about 70 musicians in the area. He retired from these activities in 1974 for reasons of health.

Mr. Freeman was a member of the National Presbyterian Church and served on its boards of deacons, elders and trustees. He was a member of the music committee, the nominating committee for church officers and the organization committee for the church's chapter of the Presbyterian Men.

In addition, Mr. Freeman served three terms as skipper of the church's Mariners' Club, a service and social organization for couples. He served two terms as national first mate of the Mariners and helped organize two of its national conventions. He was a member of the Capitol Hill Club.

Survivors include his wife, the former Mada Berry, of Arlington, and two sisters, Mrs. Alvin Strong and Mrs. Farrell Waggoner, both of Birmingham.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Hospice of Northern Virginia, to the Presbyterian Home, to the Presbyterian Mariners, or to a charity of one's choice.