Dr. O. Wendell Margrave, 74, a retired Navy Department official who had contributed articles on music to both The Washington Post and the old Washington Star, and who had been director of the Washington Musical Institute since 1959, died Jan. 13 at his home in Fairfax. He had cancer.

He was music director of the old Alexandria Civic Orchestra from 1948 to 1962, and was a past president of the Viola da Gamba Society of America.

Dr. Margrave, who had lived in this area since 1944, was born in Illinois. He was a graduate of Southern Illinois University, earned a master's degree in psychology at the University of Chicago and a doctorate in musicology at Cornell University. He served with the Navy during World War II.

He spent 30 years with Navy Department personnel before retiring in 1974 as a senior education adviser in the Naval Training Publications Center. He contributed work to the Star from 1955 to 1976, and The Post from 1976 to 1978. He also had written for publications in Prince William County.

Survivors include his wife, Lella, of Fairfax; two sons, Army Maj. Thomas E. C. Margrave of Honolulu and Andrew C., of Fairfax; three sisters, and three grandchildren.