Arch Woodruff died the other day, of cancer, up in Connecticut at the age of 72. He got a good obituary in The New York Times, describing him primarily as an urban economist, and a brief mention in "Deaths Elsewhere" in this newspaper, describing him as a former George Washington University official -- he was dean of its school of government from 1957 to 1964 -- and as the retired president of the University of Hartford.

Archibald M. Woodruff Jr. should be remembered in Washington for something else. He was chairman, and later vice chairman, of the National Capital Planning Commission, after his appointment by President Eisenhower in 1960.

A gentle, thoughtful, softspoken man, Woodruff was no dynamic leader, but he played a big transitional role in making the often hidebound planning apparatus of Washington face to the future. His distinguished immediate predecessor had been involved in planning here since 1920.

Woodruff was, for example, one of the first to say flatly that downtown Washington should not try to accommodate all the automobiles that commuters would like to park there -- that shuttle buses or a subway, then being considered, should do the job. He once observed publicly that Washington's planning mechanism is "lousy," but had one redeeming virtue: somehow, incredibly, it worked.

I remember him for his sense of humor -- and the last clipping filed about him in this newspaper's library, in 1972, is a fine reminder. It shows him, his face dripping with custard from a pie thrown by a student in a school-sanctioned "Day of Insanity" when he was head of the University of Hartford.