C. Louis Kincannon, a former director of the U.S.Census Bureau who was instrumental in bringing ethnic and linguistic diversity to his agency, especially in the corps of neighborhood census takers, died of cancer Dec. 15 at Washington Hospital Center. He was 72.

A daughter, Indya Kincannon, confirmed his death.

Mr. Kincannon began his career at the Census Bureau as a statistician in 1963. With the exception of service in the 1970s at the Office of Management and Budget and in the 1990s as chief statistician at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris, he remained at the Census Bureau until retiring in 2008 after six years as director.

“He was a pioneer in diversity and inclusion,” said A. Mark Neuman, a friend and former colleague. “He wanted the Census Bureau to look like and sound like America.”

In hiring census enumerators, Mr. Kincannon sought out people who spoke the languages and knew the customs of the populations they were counting. He believed this form of sensitivity would produce a more accurate count, said Neuman, who chaired the census monitoring board for the 2000 Census and also chaired the 2010 Census Advisory Board.

Kincannon was director of the U.S. Census Bureau from 2002 to 2008 and expanded the diversity of the census takers working in the field. He died Dec. 15 at 72. (Courtesy of U.S. Census Bureau)

Mr. Kincannon was willing to waive predetermined minimum qualifications for census takers to promote compatibility between the counters and the counted, Neuman said.

Reforms encouraged by Mr. Kincannon helped mitigate controversies and litigation arising from concerns that certain groups, especially in impoverished urban neighborhoods, had been undercounted. For years, various groups had urged that the final census counts be “statistically adjusted” to allow for people missed in the official counts. Millions of dollars in federal payments to local jurisdictions were at stake.

After Mr. Kincannon’s reforms were put in place, no statistical adjustments were required for the 2000 Census.

As chief of the census, Mr. Kincannon took seriously his role as leader of an effort mandated in Article I of the Constitution: to count the nation’s population every 10 years. In addition to apportionment of federal money, seats in Congress are at stake.

Mr. Kincannon was proud, said Neuman, to be following in the footsteps of chief justice John Marshall and presidents Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams and Martin Van Buren — all of whom, while serving as secretary of state, were in charge of early censuses.

Charles Louis Kincannon was born Dec. 12, 1940, in Waco, Tex. He graduated from the University of Texas in 1963 and joined the Census Bureau shortly thereafter. He did graduate study in statistics at Georgetown and George Washington universities and the University of Maryland.

In 1982, he was appointed deputy director and chief operating officer of the Census Bureau. He was acting director from July 1983 to March 1984 and again from January to December of 1989, a period that included final preparations for the 1990 Census.

His awards included the Gold Medal of the Department of Commerce and the Presidential Rank Award of Meritorious Executive.

Survivors include his wife of 44 years, Lois Claire Green Kincannon of Washington; two daughters, Alexandra Kincannon of Washington and Indya Kincannon of Knoxville, Tenn.; and five grandchildren.

On his appointment as Census Bureau director, Mr. Kincannon moved from Paeonian Springs, in Loudoun County, to Capitol Hill.

To his co-workers, he was known as a down-to-earth boss who showed little interest in the perquisites of his office or rank. He ate lunch in the employees’ cafeteria and had no driver to take him to work. He took the Metro to his office in Suitland.