Thomas James Graves, 68, a retired government official who had worked for the Senate, the executive office of the president, and the National Endowment for the Arts, died of cancer Jan. 17 at the Washington Home Hospice. He lived in Bethesda.

Dr. Graves was born in Newark, N.J., and was a cum laude graduate of Rutgers University. He earned master's degrees at New York and Princeton universities, and a doctorate in political science at Princeton.

He moved here in the early 1940s to join the old Budget Bureau. After serving in the Navy during World War II, he was the professional staff director of the Senate Appropriations Committee. In the early and mid-1950s he worked for senators Homer Ferguson (R-Mich.) and Henry Dworshak (R-Neb.).

He was a special assistant for intergovernmental relations in the executive office of the president for 20 years until retiring in 1976. He then worked as a consultant, was a senior associate of the National Endowment for the Arts from 1977 to 1979, and was with the old Cultural Resources Inc., a private fund-raising organization, until retiring in 1981.

Dr. Graves was a member of the American Political Science Association and the American Society for Public Administration. He also had been active in Cub Scouts in Bethesda.

Survivors include his wife, the former Nan Dressler, of Bethesda; a son, Thomas John Graves of Arlington; two daughters, Jill G. Balder of Fairfax, and Barbara L. Rollo of Laytonsville; two brothers, Robert V., of New Jersey, and Howard R., of Florida, and three grandchildren.