Clay L. Cochran, 67, a former labor union official and government economist who was a founder and executive director of Rural America, a lobbying organization, died March 23 at Alexandria Hospital after a stroke. He lived in Alexandria.

For the past 15 years, Mr. Cochran had directed organizations seeking to improve the conditions of rural life. He was a founder and the director of both the International Self-Help Housing Association (ISHA) and the Rural Housing Alliance in the 1960s. Both were forerunners of Rural America, which was started in the mid-1970s.

Mr. Cochran also had been active in the Electric Consumer Information Committee and the National Council on Agricultural Life and Labor and in civil rights organizations.

Mr. Cochran was born in New Mexico and reared in Texas. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees at the University of Texas and a doctorate in economics at the University of North Carolina.

He came to Washington in 1937 as a government research economist. He worked in Texas for the Farm Security Administration. He served in the Army Signal Corps in Europe in World War II.

After the war, he taught economics at several southern universities before returning to Washington in 1952 as legislative and research director of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. From 1958 to 1966, he was a legislative specialist with the industrial union department of the AFL-CIO.

Survivors include his wife, Anne, and a daughter, Mary Anne, both of Alexandria; another daughter, Carole Carroll of Tennessee, and one grandchild.