James D. Secrest, 78, a retired executive vice president of the Electronic Industries Association and a former newspaperman, died of pneumonia Jan. 19 at Suburban Hospital. He had Parkinson's disease.

Mr. Secrest, who lived in Washington, was born in Cincinnati and grew up in Canton, N.C. He graduated from Duke University in 1924 and became a newspaperman in Cincinnati and Asheville, N.C. In 1929, he moved to Washington and for the next 10 years was a congressional correspondent for The Washington Post. During World War II, he was director of advertising on the War Activities Committee of the Pulpwood Consuming Industry.

In 1945, Mr. Secrest joined the Radio Manufacturers Association, which later became the Electronic Industries Association. He began as public relations director. He was named executive vice president in 1952 and held that post until he retired in 1969. He received the EIA award, the organization's highest honor.

In 1974, Mr. Secrest wrote a history of the Association, "EIA: the First 50 Years."

His marriage to the former Page Sheperd ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife, Helen-Louise, of Washington; a son by his first marriage, Richard T. Secrest of Springfield; a sister, Alice Palmer of Charlotte, N.C., and three grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the United Parkinson Foundation.