Arkansas Gov. David H. Pryor today appointed Kaneaster Hodges Jr., an environmenttalist and former legislative side to the Senate seat that Pryor is expected to seek next year.

Hodges, a Methodist minister, succeeds the state's senior senator, John L. McClellan, who died in his sleep Nov. 28 at age 81 after 35 years in the Senate.

Under state law, Hodges, as an appointed senator, cannot run for his own term in 1978.

Pryot, a former House member now in his second term as governor, first suffered the Senate seat to McClellan's widow, but she declined. Beseiged with nominations from the public and politicians, and knowing he will need the backing of the McClellan organization if he seeks the seat. Pryor carefully weeded through a list of more than 70 names. Some nonpoliticians unashamedly nominated themselves and at least one caller suggested that Pryor name Dale L. Bumpers, the state's junior senator.

Hodges, 39, worked for McClellan in 1972 when Pryor opposed the senator in what turned into a Democratic bloodletting. McClellan defeated pryor in a bitter runoff, Hodges said today he had voted for McClellan.

Hodges, who describes his political philosophy as "eclectic," said he would fly to Washington Sunday and be sworn in Monday.

He is a friend of both Pryor and Bumpers. In 1975, the balding, bespectacled attorney ramrodded Pryor's program through the General Assembly.

A gentle persuader rather than an arm-twisting, back-room type, Hodges is known as a hard worker who likes to be in advance of the majority opinion on issues. He has gained a reputation among colleagues as a doer.His only failing, some say, is that he sometimes overdoes it, with too many irons in the fire at one time.

Pryor appointed Hodges to the state Game and Fish Commission and the Natural Heritage Commission. Hodges was chairman of the latter, which was formed to preserve land and sites endangered by development.

Hodges opposed the controversial Cache River channelization project, which was supported by McClellan, a longtime backer of Army engineer corps projects.

Hodges is married and has two children. He received a BA from Princeton and a master's degree in theology from Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. He received his law degree from the University of Arkansas in 1967 and joined the law practice of his father and brother at Newport. He was Newport city attorney from 1967 to 1974.