Linwood Lee Rayford Jr., 78, a longtime Washington surgeon and medical school professor who was the first African American deputy medical examiner in the city, died June 22 of pneumonia at Washington Hospital Center. He lived in the District.

In a distinguished medical career of 50 years, Dr. Rayford held a variety of prominent positions in hospitals, government and academia. In 1961, Dr. Rayford was the first African American to be named deputy medical examiner in the District of Columbia. In that position, which he held for 11 years, he conducted thousands of autopsies and forensic analyses and also testified in many court cases.

In 1972, when he was named president of the medical staff of Cafritz Memorial Hospital, which later became Southeast Community Hospital, he became the first African American to hold such a position at a community hospital in the District.

After graduating from Howard University College of Medicine in 1951, Dr. Rayford did his internship at D.C. General Hospital, then spent two years practicing medicine in his native Mississippi. In 1954, he returned to Washington, where he was a surgical resident at the former Freedman's Hospital. He had a private practice as a surgeon for nearly 30 years and had surgical privileges at more than a dozen hospitals in the District and Virginia.

He was on the medical faculties at both Georgetown and Howard universities for many years, teaching surgery, physiology and bioethics. Dr. Rayford wrote many professional papers during his career and was a medical consultant at various times to the Social Security Administration, the Government Printing Office, the D.C. Compensation Board and the National Medical Association Foundation.

He was a member of many medical and fraternal organizations, including the American College of Surgeons, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and the American Association of Medical Examiners. He was governor of the Washington chapter of the American College of Surgeons and president of the Washington Academy of Surgery. Besides directing the medical staff at Greater Southeast, he was assistant medical director of Howard University Hospital, medical adviser at Providence Hospital and medical director of Capitol Hill Hospital.

Dr. Rayford received an award for meritorious public service from the District of Columbia and in 1986 was named one of the "best doctors in town" by Washingtonian magazine.

He retired from surgery in 1987. At the time of his death, he had been medical director of the MedStar Health Visiting Nurse Association, which provides home nursing and other medical care, for 10 years. He was known throughout his career for his humility and his gentle bedside manner.

Dr. Rayford was born in Holly Springs, Miss., and developed an early interest in medicine by accompanying his father, who was also a physician, on house calls. His college education at Marquette University in Milwaukee was interrupted during World War II, when he was assigned to an Army intelligence unit. He studied the Japanese language at Yale University and was stationed in the Philippines and Okinawa.

After the war, he received an undergraduate degree in philosophy from Marquette, where he was a star basketball player. He then came to Washington to study medicine. In addition to his medical degree, he received a master's degree in physiology from Howard in 1957. He was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity and the Sigma Pi Phi honorary society.

An enthusiastic golfer, Dr. Rayford was a member of the Indian Spring Country Club and other golf organizations. He was a lifelong Catholic and a member of Christ the King Church in Silver Spring.

His wife of 51 years, Dr. Claudia R. Rayford, died in 2002.

Survivors include two children, Claudia Rayford Rodgers and Linwood L. Rayford III, both of Washington; a brother; and two grandchildren.

Linwood L. Rayford Jr. was the first African American deputy medical examiner in Washington.