J. Douglas Brown, a key architect of the Social Security system who often was referred to as the "father of Social Security," died Jan. 19 in Hightstown, N.J., at age 87. The cause of death was not known.

A retired dean of Princeton University's faculty, the labor economist died at the Meadow Lakes Retirement Community, a few miles from the university where he received his education and taught for more than four decades.

He was one of three experts who crafted the old-age pension plan for President Roosevelt's Committee on Economic Security in 1934. During later years, Mr. Brown made repeated trips to Washington to argue against legislation that would have altered the basic design and focus of the Social Security system.

He was chairman of the first Advisory Council in 1937-38 that persuaded Congress to add benefits for spouses, children and survivors.

Mr. Brown, an adviser to four presidents, had been a recipient of Social Security benefits for more than 20 years.

"Social Security is essentially a compact between the people and the government," Mr. Brown said in 1985 on the 50th anniversary of Social Security. At that time he was still involved with the program, urging that cost-of-living adjustments be kept intact.

"You don't want dollars, you want ham and eggs and a roof over your head. The cost of living goes up, and so should my benefits. If they did not, I'd be in a hell of a fix. I'm dependent on it," Mr. Brown said.

William G. Bowen, the president of Princeton, said, "Dean Brown was an extraordinary person in every way: a man of vision, compassion, good judgment and unfailing wisdom. He meant more to Princeton, and especially to the faculty of Princeton, than words can convey."

Mr. Brown joined the faculty in 1921, a year after receiving his bachelor's degree. From 1926 to 1955 he directed the university's Industrial Relations Section, which pioneered the idea of holding campus seminars for midcareer business executives and union experts.

Mr. Brown served as dean of the faculty from 1946 to 1966 and spent his final year before retirement in 1967 as Princeton's first provost. He wrote six books in retirement, including "An American Philosophy of Social Security" and "The Enjoyment of One's Older Years."

On Aug. 14, Mr. Brown and Murray W. Latimer were honored at the ceremony marking Social Security's 50th birthday at the agency's headquarters in Baltimore. Latimer died two months later at age 84. The pair had worked with the late Barbara N. Armstrong, a law professor, on Social Security's design.

Mr. Brown's wife, the former Dorothy Andrews of Eugene, Ore., died in 1979.