Paul O. Ritter, 83, the former general counsel of the Farm Credit Administration, died of cancer Sept. 25 at George Washington University Hospital.

Mr. Ritter, a resident of Rossmoor Leisure World in Silver Spring, retired from the Farm Credit Administration in 1969 after 35 years' service. He had been general counsel for eight years.

A native of Roselle, N.J., he grew up in Allentown, Pa., attended the U.S. Naval Academy and graduated from Muhlenberg College and Yale University Law School. He held a postgraduate law degree from George Washington University Law School.

Before going to law school, Mr. Ritter worked briefly as a junior patent examiner in Washington, then served two years in the Coast Guard as a watch officer on destroyers assigned to Prohibition patrol duty. He also served as a Coast Guard officer during World War II and commanded ships carrying landing craft at Iwo Jima and Okinawa and transports carrying troops for occupation duty in Japan.

Before he moved to Washington and joined the Farm Credit Administration in 1934, Mr. Ritter was an associate of the law firm of Cadwalader, Wickersham and Taft in New York for five years.

He was a member of the Federal Bar Association, the District Bar Association, the Yale Club of Washington, the Rossmoor Leisure World Kiwanis Club, the Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Washington, and the Interfaith Chapel at Leisure World.

Mr. Ritter is survived by his wife, Josephine Cometti Ritter of Leisure World, and a sister, Beatrice E. Ritter of Allentown.