Lee Julian Purnell, 86, a retired professor of electrical engineering at Howard University and a former chairman of the D.C. Board of Registration for Professional Engineers, died of congestive heart failure April 28 at Howard University Hospital.

Mr. Purnell, who lived in Washington, was born here and reared in Berkeley, Calif. He graduated from the University of California at Berkeley, earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a master's degree in the same subject at the University of California.

He taught at several colleges and universities and also was director of education for the old Civilian Conservation Corps in San Francisco before moving to Washington in 1941 and joining the faculty at Howard. He retired in 1972.

Mr. Purnell was a member of Tau Beta Pi, an honorary electrical engineering society.

His first wife, Corinne Purnell, died in the mid-1930s. His second wife, Madeline Purnell, died in 1951.

Survivors include his wife, Olga, of Washington; one daughter by his first marriage, Joyce Lee Adams of Los Angeles; two children by his second marriage, Lee J. Jr., of Upper Marlboro, and Katherine Johnson of Washington; two stepsons, John Seidel of Silver Spring, and Rickman V. Seidel of Lanham, and two grandsons.