Hale T. Shenefield, 78, a retired State Department economist and foreign aid administrator, died of respiratory arrest April 7 at a hospital in Richmond.

Dr. Shenefield came to Washington and joined the State Department in 1940. During World War II, he worked for the old Joint U.S.-Canadian War Production Board. After the war, he returned to the State Department and worked in Washington, Europe and Latin America on foreign aid projects before retiring in 1960.

He then became a financial and economic consultant to a number of organizations, including the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Health Organization and the Stanford Research Institute.

He taught economics at George Washington University during the late 1950s and early 1960s. He also had been a visiting professor at other universities, including the University of Southern California.

He was a member of the American Political Science Association, the National Economists Association, DACOR and the Cosmos Club.

Dr. Shenefield was a native of Indiana and a graduate of the University of Michigan. He earned his doctoral degree in economics at American University. Before coming to Washington, he had taught political science at the universities of Michigan and Toledo.

He lived in Washington before moving to Richmond in the mid-1970s.

Survivors include his wife, Norma Bird Shenefield of Richmond; a son, John Hale of Arlington; a daughter, Anne S. Dowd of Newport News; two sisters, Mildred Marrs and Mary Ann Noble, both of Pierceton, Ind., a brother, Eugene, of Pleasantville, N.Y., and three grandchildren.