William P. Durkee III, 63, a former president of Radio Free Europe and head of the Office of Civil Defense, died May 6 in a hospital in Denver. He had arteriosclerosis. He maintained homes in Washington and Colorado Springs.

He practiced law in Colorado and California and worked for the State Department and the CIA in this country and Europe before joining the Defense Department's Office of Civil Defense in 1961. He was director of the office from 1964 to 1967.

He then went to Munich and spent a year as a vice president of Radio Free Europe. He was president of Radio Free Europe from 1968 to 1975.

Mr. Durkee was born in Chicago and reared in California. He was a 1941 cum laude graduate of Dartmouth College and a 1947 graduate of Yale University's law school. During World War II, he served with the British Army until he was wounded at El Alamein in North Africa. After that, he served with the U.S. Embassy in London until the end of the war.

Survivors include his wife, the former Dorcas M. Dunklee, of Washington and Colorado Springs; two sons, William P. IV, of Pittsburgh, and Edward C., of New York City; a daughter, Vaughan McTernan of Colorado Springs; his mother, Helen C. Durkee of Corona Del Mar, Calif.; a brother, Robert, of Newport Beach, Calif.; a sister, Barbara Parker of Santa Ana, Calif., and one grandchild.