Ethel L. Payne, 79, a journalist whose interests ranged from civil rights and politics to international affairs and who was the first black female commentator on network television, died of an apparent heart attack May 28 at her home in Washington.

A Washington-based reporter and columnist for the Chicago Daily Defender, the Afro-American newspapers and other publications from 1952 into the 1980s, Miss Payne covered two wars and the administrations and political campaigns of six presidents.

Her persistence in raising civil rights-related questions at the White House news conferences of Dwight Eisenhower prompted a presidential fit of temper in 1954. When she asked about a possible executive order to end segregation in interstate train and bus travel, Eisenhower shot back: "What makes you think I am going to give special favoritism to special interests? I am the president of all the people."

Miss Payne said she was pretty much frozen out at news conferences after that.

She had a special reputation for covering international affairs, and she reported from 30 countries and interviewed leaders on six continents.

In the early 1970s, she became a national broadcaster. For six years she was featured on the public affairs series "Spectrum," broadcast by CBS radio and television. She continued as a commentator for radio and television stations here and in the Midwest until the 1980s.

Miss Payne was a mentor to generations of young journalists and was often honored by her profession, civil rights organizations and other groups in later life.

Her papers are included in the black history and culture collections of the New York library system and Howard University, and her story was recorded by the oral history project of the Washington Press Club Foundation, an effort focusing on pioneering female journalists.

Peers described Miss Payne as an early and unsung hero of black journalism for pushing civil and human rights issues into print, and they dubbed her "the first lady of the black press."

Miss Payne was "of a generation when many white institutions and white politicians were not used to dealing with black journalists.

She made them listen," said New York Times reporter Thomas Morgan III, president of the National Association of Black Journalists, in an earlier interview with The Washington Post.

A native of Chicago, Miss Payne was a journalism graduate of Northwestern University. She was driven by a "great sense of indignation for people who couldn't defend themselves," she told a Post interviewer in 1982.

She was working as an Army club director in Tokyo in 1949 and keeping a journal of her observations about discrimination against black servicemen when visiting journalists urged her to send some of her work to the Chicago Daily Defender, a newspaper with a national circulation.

Her stories caused a stir and got her a job as Washington political correspondent for the Defender.

She covered her first international conference in Bandung, Indonesia, in 1956, at a time when black newspapers were not covering international news. She continued as a frequent overseas traveler for three decades, interviewing Chou En-Lai, Haile Selassie, Idi Amin and others.

Miss Payne was not reserved about stepping out of advocacy and into active participation in causes. She marched in civil rights demonstrations and campaigned through letters, petitions and other means to secure the freedom in South Africa of Nelson and Winnie Mandela. She was arrested at the South African Embassy six years ago during months of demonstrations against apartheid.

She had served as a visiting professor of journalism at Fisk University and Jackson State University and was a former Ford Foundation fellow.

She was a past president of the Capital Press Club. In recent years, she concentrated on working on her memoirs.

Miss Payne served on the board of Africare, a private relief organization, and was the author of "Roots, Rewards and Renewal," a publication about black institutions of higher learning that was distributed nationwide by her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta. She was a member of the D.C. Women's Hall of Fame.

Miss Payne is survived by a sister, Avis Ruth Johnson of San Diego.

ELWOOD HARRY 'MAX' EVENSON

Naval Architect

Elwood Harry "Max" Evenson, 77, a retired Naval architect who spent most of his career with the Department of the Army, died of cancer May 29 at Doctor's Hospital of Northern Virginia.

Mr. Evenson, who lived in Arlington, was born in Jersey City. He graduated from the Pratt Institute School of Architecture. While attending school in the 1930s, he worked in the shipbuilding and naval architecture divison of Bethlehem Steel Corp. in New York.

From 1938 to 1952 he was chief naval architect in New York for the Navy's supervisor of shipbuilding in the design and construction of destroyers and aircraft carriers.

In 1952 he began working for the Department of the Army and two years later was assigned to Washington. He served as deputy director of the Army's Supply and Maintenance Command and as naval architect in the office of the Army's chief of transportation. He retired in 1973 as naval architect with the Army Materiel Command.

In retirement Mr. Evenson worked four years as a structural engineer with the Fairfax County building inspector's office.

He received the Meritorious Civilian Service Award from the Department of the Navy, and he was a member of the ship structure committee of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Society of Naval Architects.

He served on the board of deacons and sang in the choir at Arlington's Cherrydale Baptist Church.

Survivors include his wife, Lill Evenson of Arlington; four children, Peter O. Evenson of Greensboro, N.C., Helene Bishop of Champaign, Ill., Sandra Thomas of Huntington Woods, Mich., and Laura Hall of Fairfax; two sisters, Mabel Johnson of Fallston, Md., and Esther Johanna Odegaard of Northwood, N.H.; and seven grandchildren.

HARRY DORSEY 'BILL' MITCHELL

Architect and Builder

Harry Dorsey "Bill" Mitchell, 82, an architect and builder who had his own firm in Washington and then became a construction consultant to the Swedish Embassy, died of a heart attack May 27 at Sibley Memorial Hospital.

Mr. Mitchell was born in Washington, and he lived in the city most of his life. He was nicknamed Bill after his godfather, President William Howard Taft. He was a graduate of Princeton University.

From 1933 to 1937, Mr. Mitchell was in the building business in Buffalo. He then returned here and founded Harry D. Mitchell & Co., an architectural and building firm. He ran the business until 1973, when he closed it.

For the subsequent 15 years, he was a consultant to the Swedish Embassy on various building and renovation projects. For these services the Swedish government made him a knight of the Royal Order of the Northern Star.

Mr. Mitchell was a member of the Chevy Chase Club.

His wife, the former Josephine Moyer, died in 1986.

Survivors include two children, Josephine M. Woods of Tampa and Ann M. Brasfield of Washington; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

ALVIN F. SEEBODE

Meteorologist

Alvin F. Seebode, 88, a retired meteorologist with the U.S. Weather Bureau who was active in church and service organizations, died of heart ailments May 24 at the Bridgewater nursing home in Bridgewater, Va.

Mr. Seebode, a resident of Great Falls, was born in Elberfeld, Ind. He graduated from the University of Evansville, and he studied social work at the University of Chicago.

He was a social worker in Tennessee before joining the Weather Bureau in Memphis in 1937. He was transferred to Washington in 1941, and he retired in 1968.

A former resident of Arlington, Centreville and Fairfax City, Mr. Seebode headed the young people's department of Columbia Baptist Church in Falls Church in the 1940s. He later was senior warden at St. John's Episcopal Church in Centreville. He was a founding member of the Centreville Lions Club and a member of the Fairfax Host Lions Club.

His marriage to the former Ida Bonds ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife, Hazel S. Seebode, whom he married in 1974, of Great Falls; a daughter by his first marriage, Dorothy Anne Seebode of Bridgewater; a stepdaughter, Dorothy Marshall Betz of McLean; and a sister, Goldie Buzzingham of Evansville, Ind.

JERRY STEPHEN BEALS

Graphic Artist

Jerry Stephen Beals, 35, art director for the past 2 1/2 years for Reynolds & Associates, an advertising firm in Great Falls, died May 25 at Hospice of Washington. He had AIDS.

Mr. Beals, who lived in Washington, was born in Derby, Conn. He attended Kent State University and the University of Maryland.

A resident of the Washington area since 1978, he worked for the BDM Corp. and then as a freelance graphic artist before joining Reynolds & Associates.

Mr. Beals was a member of the founding board of directors of the Triangle Club, a meeting house for 12-step programs serving the gay community in Washington.

Survivors include his companion, Robert J. McDonald of Washington; his mother, Barbara Wolf of Naugatuck, Conn.; and two brothers, Jason Beals of Stratford, Conn., and Jeffrey Beals of Bridgeport, Conn.

LEA GILPIN WILLSON

Real Estate Broker

Lea Gilpin Willson, 96, a retired real estate broker and investor, died of septicemia, Parkinson's disease and heart ailments May 28 at his home in Bethesda.

Mr. Willson was born in Sandy Spring and lived in the Washington area all his life. He graduated from the University of Maryland, where he received varsity letters in football, baseball, tennis and lacrosse.

He was a self-employed real estate broker and investor, and he developed shopping centers in suburban Maryland. He specialized in the conversion of rental apartment buildings into cooperatives and condominiums. He retired in the early 1980s.

During World War II, Mr. Willson served in the Army Air Forces in the South Pacific.

He was a member of the Army & Navy Club and the American Legion in Sandy Spring.

Survivors include his wife of 66 years, Marion R. Willson of Bethesda; a daughter, Mary Lea Whitlow of Arlington; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.