Dr. Erman W. Edgecombe, 56, a surgeon and former president of the Washington Urban League, died Tuesday of a heart attack while driving to his Northwest Washington home from National Airport.

Dr. Edgecombe had taken a son, Erman Jr., to catch a plane for Providence, R. I., where he attends Brown University. Father and son ran to the loading gate, and the heart attack occurred minutes after Dr. Edgecombe returned to his car for the trip home.

His wife, Theresa, said her husband was driving toward the 14th Street Bridge when he pulled the car to the side of the parkway and slumped over.He was pronounced dead at Arlington Hospital.

Dr. Edgecombe was prominent in national and local medical organizations. Last year he was elected chairman of the board of trustees of the National Medical Association at its 81st annual meeting in Nashville, Tenn. He was a contributor to numerous medical journals.

He also was chairman of the D.C. Commission on Judicial Disabilities and Tenure, which put him in the center of the still-unresolved question of a second term for D.C. Superior Court Judge Charles W. Halleck. Dr. Edgecombe supported reappointment of the controversial jurist.

D.C. City Council Chairman Sterling Tucker, who was executive director of the local Urban League when Dr. Edgecombe was its president, said the doctor was "an amazing leader who had a way of bringing together a number of differing factions. He was president during a critical period, a bridge between the '60s and '70s."

Dr. Edgecombe served on the steering committee of Tucker's campaign for election to the Council chairmanship in 1974.

Born in West Palm Beach, Fla., Dr. Edgecombe was educated at Talladega College and Howard University Medical School, where he received a doctor of medicine degree in 1945. He later was trained at Harlem Hospital in New York and the old Freedmen's Hospital here.

He was a captain in the Army Medical Corps from 1951 to 1953, serving in Korea, and later was a senior assistant surgeon in the U.S. Public Health Service.

After a residency at Freedmen's, during which he specialized in thoracic surgery, he joined the Howard University medical faculty. He was an assistant professor of surgery there.

He was on the staffs of several area hospitals, including Howard University Hospital, and maintained an extensive private practice.

A former vestryman of St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Dr. Edgecombe heid memberships in more than 15 professional, service and medical organizations. He was a trustee of Anthony Bowen YMCA.

In addition to his wife, whom he married in 1974 after the death of his first wife, Dr. Edgecombe is survived by two sons, Erman and Michael; a daughter, Denise Holland, of Largo; a sister, Naomi Horton, of Durham, N.C.; a stepson, norvell Vandervall Coots; a stepdaughter, Elizabeth Graham, and a granddaughter.