James Sprunt Holmes, 82, who founded his own insurance firm here and remained active in it until his retirement in 1974, died Friday at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda following a stroke.

Mr. Holmes was born in Chapel Hill, N.C., and grew up there and in Washington. He graduated from the old Western High School and later attended the Deep Springs School in California and Cornell University. In 1928, having returned to Washington, he began his insurance career with the Aetna Casualty and Surety Company.

A year later, he founded his own firm. In 1940, he became a chartered life underwriter and for several years was a member of the Million Dollar Roundtable. Mr. Holmes's company became Holmes Hart and Ewing and he remained part of it until he retired. The company has its principal offices in Kensington.

Mr. Holmes, who lived in Washington, was a member of the Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church, where he served on the board of elders and taught in the Sunday school. At the time of his death, he was a member of the Fourth Presbyterian Church in Kenwood.

He also was a member of the Chevy Chase Club.

Survivors include his wife, Helen, to whom he was married for 50 years; two children, Elizabeth H. Vilar of Orford, N.H., and James Dalziel Holmes of Bowie; a brother, Joseph A. Holmes of Lake Wales, Fla., and five grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to a charity of one's choice.