Walter James McDonald, 78, a former assistant secretary of the Treasury, died after a heart attack June 21 at his Germantown home.

Mr. McDonald was appointed to the assistant secretary's position in 1978 by President Jimmy Carter and served until 1981, when he retired.

He worked for the Treasury Department for 15 years, in positions ranging from a management analyst in the secretary's office to chief of its emergency planning staff. He also served as financial manager and equal employment opportunity officer in the secretary's office and then deputy director of the office of management and organization before his ultimate appointment.

He received the Civil Service Commission's Distinguished Service Award for his work on the president's task force on federal personnel management.

Mr. McDonald was born in Staten Island, N.Y., and graduated from New York University. He served in the Army during World War II -- in Saipan in the Mariana Islands -- and the Korean War. He worked for six years for the Army's ordnance depot in Captieux, France, and then for four years as deputy comptroller at Fort Irwin in California.

He received a master's in business and public administration from Southeastern University in 1977 and certification in public administration from the Department of Agriculture's graduate school.

His marriages to Dorothy McDonald, Colette Theas McDonald and Sharon Davies ended in divorce. A daughter from his second marriage, Muriel Laterrade, died in 1995.

Survivors include a son from his first marriage, Walter Gerald McDonald of Charlotte; a daughter from his second marriage, Ianthe Geraldine McDonald of Naples, Fla.; two sisters; six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Walter McDonald was appointed Treasury assistant secretary in 1978

by Jimmy Carter.