Patricia Roberts Harris, a cabinet secretary in the Carter administration who was defeated last September in a bid to become Washington's mayor, has been named a professor of law at George Washington University.

Harris, 58, will teach full time starting in the fall, said law school dean Jerome Barron, who announced the appointment. Harris graduated from George Washington's National Law Center in 1960, ranking first in a class of 94.

"She is truly one of the most distinguished graduates of the school and one of the most distinguished women in public life," Barron said. "She will be an excellent model for law students of what a lawyer can do to make a better society."

Since she finished second to Mayor Marion Barry in the D.C. Democratic primary, Harris has kept away from local politics, but has remained on several corporate and foundation boards, including IBM and Scott Paper.

Harris declined to discuss her new appointment or other recent activities. However, former Democratic National Committeewoman Flaxie Pinkett, a close friend, said: "Mostly, she's been resting, and she just doesn't talk about local politics any more. She told me in no uncertain terms that she wouldn't run for mayor again."

During the Carter administration Harris headed three cabinet departments: Housing and Urban Development; Health, Education, and Welfare; and Health and Human Services. Under President Johnson she served as U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg. She was the first black woman to hold a cabinet post or to be a U.S. ambassador.

Harris was a professor at Howard University Law School in the 1960s and its dean for a month in 1969. She quit abruptly, charging the university had undercut her resistance to demands of students who were boycotting.