James A. Shannon, 63, a retired Air Force brigadier general whose assignments included duty as secretary to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, died Dec. 5 at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Washington. He had Parkinson's disease.

Gen. Shannon, who lived in Alexandria, was born in Fairburn, Ga. He began his military career in the old Army Air Forces in World War II as a B-25 bomber pilot in New Guinea. He transferred to the Air Force when it became an independent service in 1947.

While on active duty, he graduated from the European program of the University of Maryland and took a master's degree in international affairs at George Washington University. He also graduated from the Air Command and Staff School at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., and the National War College.

Gen. Shannon's postwar assignments included command of a squadron in Germany and of a wing in Britain. He also was chief of the reconnaissance division in the directorate of operational requirements at Air Force headquarters and deputy director for operations at the National Military Command Center in the Pentagon. He was secretary of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when he retired in 1969 for health reasons.

His decorations included three Legions of Merit and two Air Medals.

From 1971 to 1974, Gen. Shannon was an official of the Epilepsy Foundation of America. He was a member of the Plymouth Haven Baptist Church in Alexandria.

Survivors include his wife, Carolyn of Alexandria; two children, Peggy S. Baber, also of Alexandria, and James A. Shannon Jr. of Manassas; his mother, Mrs. V. Q. Shannon, and a sister, Sara Dean, both of Atlanta, and three grandchildren.