J. Bernard Bradshaw, 79, a retired senior attorney with the Board of Immigration Appeals who was active in civic affairs, died Tuesday at Arlington Hospital. He had a heart ailment.

Mr. Bradshaw, who was born in Richmond, graduated from the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania. He then returned to Richmond and worked in a family retail business. In 1934, he moved to the Washington area and worked as a buyer for the Julius Garfinckel & Company department store. At the same time, he attended George Washington University, where he earned a law degree.

In 1940, he became a special inspector with the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Two years later, he joined the Board of Immigration Appeals and remained there until he retired in 1972.

Mr. Bradshaw, who lived in Arlington, was a founder and past president of the Leukemia Society of Washington. He also was a founder of the Citizens Committee for School Improvement of Arlington, a past president of the Arlington County Council of PTAs and a past assistant director of the Virginia Congress of PTAs. He also was a member of the Committee of 100 for Arlington County and of the subcommittee for federal land use of the Arlington County Planning Commission.

He was a life member of the Optimists International and was voted "man of the year" in 1978 by the Arlington County Optimists.

His first wife, Emily A. Bradshaw, died in 1966.

Survivors include his wife, Beatrice Gay Bradshaw; two sons by his first marriage, James Bernard Jr., of McLean, and John Peyton III, of Kent Store, Va., and a sister, Alice B. Kerr, of Richmond.