Retired Air Force Lt. Col. John J. Whiteside, 58, a public information officer who helped organize television coverage of the early manned space shots and who later became a futurist, died of cancer Friday at the Malcolm Grow Medical Center at Andrews Air Force Base.

Col. Whiteside, who was born in Orient, Ill., attended Southern Illinois University and the University of Houston. He enlisted in the old Army Air Corps in 1940. He was commissioned, became a navigator and flew 40 missions in the Pacific theater during World War II. His military decorations included the Distinguished Flying Cross and seven Air Medals.

After the war, he was in the advertising business in St. Louis. During the Korean conflict, he was recalled to active duty in the Air Force and decided to make the service his career. Subsequent assignments included Japan and various posts in this country.

In 1961, Col. Whiteside was named public information officer of the Eastern Test Range at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida. He organized television "pool" coverage of the Mercury and Gemini manned space launchings and their splashdowns in the ocean.

He later served in Vietnam. He was the information officer in the New York office of the secretary of the Air Force when he retired in 1970.

As a futurist, Col. Whiteside, who moved to Washington in 1972, was a co-founder with Barbara Marx Hubbard of the Committee for the Future, a citizens advocacy group. He also helped organize a number of other groups to make futurist broadcasts and films. He was the author of two plays, "Seven Days of Eve" and "Act III," both of which have futurist themes.

Col. Whiteside's survivors include his wife, Frances M., of Granite City, Ill.; a daughter, Linda G. Henman, of Charleston, S.C.; a son, J. P. Whiteside, of Arlington; two sisters, Judy Sorgenfry, of St. Louis, and Pamela Beck, of Eldorado, Ill.; a brother, Thomas, of Satellite Beach, Fla., and three grandchildren.