Richard E. Byrd Jr., who lived his life in the shadow of his father, the admiral and Arctic explorer, was found dead last week in the darkness of an abandoned warehouse in Baltimore, his emaciated body clad in dirt-blackened clothes and one scuffed shoe, the police there said yesterday.
The 68-year-old Mr. Byrd, a graduate of Harvard University who as a young naval officer escorted his father on a journey to Antarctica in 1947, apparently died of malnutritian and dehydration, the police said.
The body was discovered Monday by a custodian who said he had chased Mr. Byrd and another man from the area on Sept. 28, according to Detective Charles Gilbert of the Baltimore police homicide squad. It was unclear, the police said, how the elderly member of a prominent Massachusetts family had come to wander and sleep in an area of warehouses and factories in the city's Hampden section.
''He was just wearing a shirt and pants and one shoe, and they all looked dirty,'' Detective Gilbert said, adding that the custodian who had chased Mr. Byrd and the other man recalled that ''they had booze with them in a paper bag at the time.'' Resident of Beacon Hill
Mr. Byrd's family described him as a resident of the affluent Beacon Hill section of Boston.
His son, Leverett Byrd of Needham, Mass., was quoted in The Baltimore Sun yesterday as saying that Mr. Byrd left Boston on Sept. 13 to attend a ceremony at the Washington headquarters of the National Geographic Society. The ceremony honored his father, Adm. Richard E. Byrd, the pioneer aviator and polar explorer, who achieved fame with his long-distance flights over the Arctic and expeditions in Antarctica from 1924 to 1956.
''I put him on a train, and my wife was supposed to meet him,'' Leverett Byrd said. ''What happened in between, I don't know. It's very strange, this whole thing. We're trying to come to grips with it.''
''He idolized his father,'' Leverett Byrd said. ''The main focus of his life was to continue what my grandfather had started, to help people who wanted information about him.'' Familiar Leitmotif
The face and name of Richard E. Byrd Jr. were a familiar leitmotif in the dashing career of his father. For instance, one day in June 1930, as Mayor Jimmy Walker and crowds of other New Yorkers prepared to welcome Admiral Byrd back from an Antarctic expedition with a hero's parade, they watched the admiral's wife and son waiting at dockside. The New York Times reported, ''Richard Byrd Jr., wide-eyed and eager to meet his long-absent dad, stood beside her, trembling with excitment.''
Admiral Byrd died in 1957. Richard Jr. was born in Boston, attended the Milton Academy and Harvard, joined the Navy and served as an officer in the Pacific during World War II. In 1948, he married Emily Saltonstall, the daughter of Senator Leverett Saltonstall of Massachusetts. They had four children and were divorced in 1960.
Reached at a family residence in Maine yesterday, the wife of Leverett Byrd said that members of the family were distraught and would offer no further information.
The family told The Boston Globe, however, that Mr. Byrd had been a member of the Union Boat Club and the Somerset Club in Boston, and was survived by five children and six grandchildren.
In his interview with The Baltimore Sun, Leverett Byrd said his father had lived from stock market investments and a trust fund.
''His whole life was pretty difficult,'' he said. ''You can imagine what it was like to be the son of Admiral Byrd.''