Dr. J. Harold Goldthorpe, 87, a retired specialist in higher education at the Office of Education at the old Department of Health, Education and Welfare, died Feb. 19 at Suburban Hospital. He had suffered a stroke last December.

Dr. Goldthorpe retired in 1966 after 22 years with the Office of Education. During his career there, he had been an adviser on education to the State Department and to the ministries of education in Burma and Thailand.

A native of Montana, Dr. Goldthorpe was reared in Minnesota and graduated from Hamline University. He served in the Army during World War I and earned a master's degree and a doctorate in education from the University of Minnesota.

He came to Washington in 1939 as a staff associate at the American Council on Education.

Dr. Goldthorpe had written several articles, book reviews and reports for educational journals. He was a member of the National Education Association and the American Association of School Administrators.

A resident of Washington, he was a member of Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church, the Laymen's Council of the Wesley Theological Seminary, the Masons and the Fossils.

Dr. Goldthorpe is survived by his wife, Neva Edmiston Goldthorpe, of Washington; three daughters, Leslie Andersen of Wheaton, Donna Lee Self of Rockville and Lacy Hutchinson Jensen of Mission Viejo, Calif.; a sister, Rene Dahm, of California; 12 grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.