Howard Dunnavant, 56, a retired District government employee and long active with the Camp Fire Girls, died Saturday at the Veterans Administration Hospital here.

He had worked in accounting for the District government for 20 years before retiring from the Department of General Services after suffering a heart attack in 1974.

Mr. Dunnavant had been active with the Camp Fire Girls organization since 1963 and was chairman of its District of Columbia district at the time of his death.

He also had served for nine years on the executive board of the Potomac Area Council and was vice president for program implementation.

The Council is composed of the D.C., Northern Virginia, Montgomery and Prince George's counties districts.

Mr. Dunnavant was a member of the National of Camp Fire Girls in New York. Known as "Mr. Camp Fire," he had received numerous citations and awards for his service to the organization and to the community.

Born in Decatur, Ala., Mr. Dunnavant grew up in Greenville, Pa. He attended Slippery Rock State College in Pennsylvania.

During World War II, he served with the 164th Army Ground Forces Band in Hawaii. He played the French horn.

Mr. Dunnavant came to Washington in 1948 to work for Rep. Carroll D. Kearns (r-Pa.). He then worked for the Post Office Department before joining the District government.

He is survived by his wife, Tallullah, of the home in Washington; two daughters, Patricia of Rochester, N.Y., and Mary Wade, of Washington; four brothers, John and Donald, both of Greenville, James, of Chicago, and Horace, of Dayton, Ohio, and four sisters, America Dunnavant, of Venice, Calif., Ida Phelps, of Youngstown, Ohio, Mildred Dunnavant, of Greenville, and Ruby Jackson, of Cambridge, Ohio.