James Avener Beales, 72, a retired Foreign Service officer who was former chief of the United States Information Agency photographic lab and a former resident of Silver Spring, died of a cardiac arrest Friday at a hospital in Elizabeth City, N.C. He had lived in Hertford, N.C., since 1970.

Mr. Beales was a native of Arlington. He served with the Navy as a photographer specialist under Edward Steichen here during World War II.

He was a photographer with the old Washington Times-Herald and the Department of Agriculture during the 1930s and 1940s.

In 1948, he became assistant chief of the USIA's photographic laboratory. He was named its chief in 1952.

In 1962, he went to India as a Foreign Service officer. He returned to Washington in 1964 and remained with the State Department until he retired in 1968.

Mr. Beales was a past president of Silver Spring Garden Club and was a member of the Colesville United Methodist Church. He was a former member of the White House News Photographers Association.

Survivors include his wife, Fannie Foster Beales of Hertford; a daughter, Barbara Lee O'Donnell of Vienna; two sons, James A. Jr., of Hertford, amd John Lester, of Elizabeth City, and four grandchildren.