John H. Powell Jr., 63, who in the 1970s served as general counsel of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission and chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, died Dec. 19 at a hospital in Pittsburgh after a heart attack. He lived in Pittsburgh.

Mr. Powell, a New York lawyer and corporate official, came to Washington in 1970 as the Civil Rights Commission general counsel, a post he held until becoming EEOC chairman in 1973.

The Ford administration asked him and other commission officials to resign in 1975. The actions took place following criticism of the commission's management by the Senate Labor and Public Welfare Committee and widespread news reports of conflict within the agency over management, personnel and policy issues.

After leaving the commission, Mr. Powell worked briefly for the Labor Department and then was an arbitrator with the American Arbitration Association before serving as a Social Security Administration administrative law judge from 1981 until retiring in 1992.

Mr. Powell, a former Bethesda resident, lived in Pittsburgh since 1982. He was a native of Mineola, N.Y. He was a graduate of Howard University and Harvard University law school and received a master's degree in labor law from New York University.

Before coming to Washington, he had served as an assistant U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, N.Y., had practiced law privately in New York and had worked for Celanese Corp. and Inmont Corp.

Survivors include his wife, Adrienne Kennedy Powell of Pittsburgh; a son, John W., of San Diego; a daughter, Catherine B. Powell of Brooklyn; his mother, Fannie L. Powell of Great Neck, N.Y.; and two brothers, William E., of Bay Shore, N.Y., and Howard L., of Portsmouth, Va.