Samuel W. Hauser, 78, former chairman of the board of Peoples Life Insurance Company here, died Thursday after a heart attack at his home in Arlington.

A native of Richmond, Mr. Hauser graduated from the University of Richmond and then worked for 15 years as an examiner for the Virginia State Bureau of Insurance and Banking.

He joined Peoples Life in 1935, after meeting W. Wallace Chiswell, the company's founder, while Mr. Hauser was conducting a regular state audit of the insurance company.

"Chiswell offered me a job at the right psychological moment," Mr. Hauser recalled in an interview with The Washington Post in 1957. "After 15 years of chasing about the state and examining books of banks and insurance firms. I was in the mood to listen to a job offer that meant staying in one place and sleeping at home."

In 1944, Mr. Hauser was elected the company's third president, and in 13 years managed to quadruple the assets of People Life. He became board chairman in 1959, and retired 10 years later.

Mr. Hauser was a member of the advisory board for branches of the American Security and Trust Company and a former director of the D.C. Heart Association.

He also was an active member of several trade organizations, including the Financial Analysts Society, the Life Insurers' Conference, the American Life Convention and the Mid-Atlantic Actuarial Society.

He is survived by his son, Samuel W. Jr., and three grandchildren, Michael C., Sharon W., and Julie M., all of Portland, Maine.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy may be in the form of contributions to St. Mary's Episcopal Church, 2609 N. Glebe Rd., Arlington.