Dr. James T. Baird Jr., 54, a specialist on vital statistics and family planning who worked for the Public Health Service and other government agencies, died Feb. 14 at Suburban Hospital of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

Dr. Baird, who lived in Rockville, was the associate director for international statistics at the National Center for Health Statistics at the Public Health Service at the time he retired in 1979 for reasons of health. His work there concerned improving vital statistics in developing countries.

He began his government career in health statistics in 1953 when he joined the International Cooperation Administration, a forerunner of the Agency for International Development. He spent three years with the ICA in Lebanon. He moved to Washington in 1956, worked for the Air Force for a year, and then joined the national health survey of the PHS.

From 1961 to 1965, he was in Saigon with AID. He spent the next two years in Algeria on a Ford Foundation fellowship to do statistical work on family planning. From 1967 to 1972, he was back at PHS. He then spent four years at the Food and Drug Administration. He returned to PHS as associate director for international statistics.

Dr. Baird was born in New Haven, Conn., and reared in Deland, Fla. He served in the Navy at the end of World War II. He earned a bachelor's degree at Florida State University, a master's degree at Columbia University and a doctorate at American University. He worked for the Florida Health Department before joining the ICA.

Dr. Baird was a fellow of the American Public Health Association and a member of the American Statistical Association, the Biometrics Society and the International Association for Survey Statisticians. He also was a Mason, a Shriner and a member of the St. Jane de Chantal Catholic Church.

Survivors include his wife, Huda, of Rockville, and a brother, Bruce of Alexandria.