By now, Washington lawyer John R. Foley surely has figured an almost certain way to get his picture in the paper: appear on a labor union's picket line.

Yesterday I sat bolt upright, almost spilling my first cup of coffee, when I saw Foley pictured in this paper carrying a picket sign outside a Washington law firm whose employes he is representing. History was repeating!

Other than what news people call "head shots," possibly the last previous picture of Foley in this paper was printed Dec. 7, 1958, showing him as Montgomery County's Democratic congressman-elect walking a Newspaper Guild strike picket line outside the old Pennsylvania Avenue office of the then-still-powerful but now-defunct Washington Star.

The two pictures, 1958 and 1983, are printed above. Obviously the years have treated Foley well.

Reminiscing yesterday, Foley said a reporter friend and Guild activist, the late Charles Hoffman, invited him to visit the strike headquarters. "I thought they wanted legal advice or something like that," he said. But on arriving, the late Wes Barthelmes, the guild local president and a Washington Post reporter, said: "Here's your sign; let's go."

Foley's son, John Foley III, then 14, walked too, whispering to his dad: "How many votes is this going to lose for you?"

Foley served only one term, and was defeated by 9,000 votes in 1960 by Republican Charles McC. Mathias Jr., now a senator. "In 1962 he slaughtered me by 38,000," said Foley, who admits to having since voted for Mathias' reelection to the U.S. Senate.

Although his Star picket-line activity earned him the enmity of Star management, Foley's own assessment is that, if anything, it did him more good than harm politically.