James Harrison McGlothlin, 88, a retired partner of the Covington & Burling law firm whose specialty was antitrust and trade litigation, died May 27 at Hilton Head (S.C.) Hospital of complications from a heart attack he suffered last fall.

Mr. McGlothlin's expertise carried him into the courtroom battles of the '60s involving what at the time was the biggest consolidation in U.S. corporate history, the merger of the Pennsylvania Railroad with the New York Central Railroad in 1964 to form the Penn Central Transportation Co., which in turn filed for reorganization under bankruptcy laws in 1970.

In 1967, while retaining his partnership at Covington & Burling, he became vice president for law at the Southern Railway System before its merger with the Norfolk & Western.

He eventually was executive vice president for law and finance at Southern. He retired from his law firm and Southern in 1979.

Mr. McGlothlin was born in Louisville, and raised there and in Greenville, S.C. He attended Furman University, where in 1929 he graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor's degree in English and history and membership in Phi Beta Kappa. He received a master's degree in English from the University of Virginia in 1930 and then taught high school in Atlanta for several years. He graduated magna cum laude in 1936 from Harvard Law School, where he was on the Law Review and served as its case editor.

He clerked for Judge Harold M. Stephens of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and worked several years in New York City for Cravath, Swaine & Moore. He came to Washington in 1940 to join Covington & Burling.

His legal career was interrupted by service in the Navy from 1942 to 1946, during which time he was a line officer and commanded several ships, including the USS Earl V. Johnson, a destroyer, aboard which he sailed in the Pacific. He also served in the Caribbean and the North Atlantic. He left the Navy as a captain after the war.

In 1944, Mr. McGlothlin married the former Patricia Charlotte Dowd, of Montreal, whom he met in the mountains outside that city while on his first and only skiing trip. She joined him in Washington after the war, and they lived in Chevy Chase and then in Spring Valley, where they lived until his retirement.

The McGlothlins then moved to Sea Island, Ga., before moving to an assisted living facility on Hilton Head Island last year.

In retirement, Mr. McGlothlin was a member of the North Island Baptist Church of Hilton Head, was active in Literacy Volunteers of America and the Brunswick, Ga., Legal Aid Society.

At the age of 80, he hit a hole-in-one at the Burning Tree Country Club in Bethesda, a feat he was as proud of as his once-in-a-lifetime ski trip.

While in Washington, Mr. McGlothlin was president of the Furman University Alumni Association and was a member of Furman's advisory council, the board of directors of Columbia Hospital for Women and the board of trustees of the Madeira School.

He is survived by his wife; three daughters, Susan Anderson of Greenwich, Conn., Patricia M. Stewart of New York City and Holly McGlothlin of San Francisco; and six grandchildren.