Roy E. James, 76, a retired official of the Agency for International Development who had also been Republican staff director for the Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, died Jan. 26 at the Bethesda Naval Hospital after a heart attack.

Mr. James retired in 1973 after having served four years as director of the AID mission in Sri Lanka. Earlier he had been a lawyer in private practice in Washington and was Republican staff director of the Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare from 1953 to 1959.

He was born in Weissport, Pa., and graduated from Pennsylvania State University, the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and George Washington University Law School. During World War II he served in the Navy in the Pacific and later was associate judge of the Court of Appeals for the U.S. Military Government of Guam.

He spent two years as chief of the Pacific division of the Interior Department's Office of Territories in Washington, then was an unsuccessful Republican candidate for Congress from Pennsylvania in 1948. Later he worked for the Hawaii Statehood Commission in Washington and as an assistant to former Sen. Arthur Watkins (R-Utah).

A resident of Chevy Chase, Mr. James was a member of the American Legion, the Navy League, the National Press Club and the Capitol Hill Club.

Survivors include his wife, Virginia, of Chevy Chase; a son, Dr. Reese E. James of Tulsa, Okla.; a daughter, Eileen Ward of Richmond, Va.; a sister, Matilda Jocem of Lakehurst, N.J., and six grandchildren.