Paul R. Leach, 87, retired Washington bureau chief for the Knight newspapers and a verteran of 45 years as a journalists, died Saturday after a brief illness in Ormond Beach, Fla.

When he retired in 1956 as a political and economic writer for the newspaper chain. Mr. Leach had filed stories from every state except Alaska and had covered every national political convention since 1920. He had reported on golf tournaments and fires, revolutions and depressions.

He always wanted to be a reporter, and he always was," a Knight dispatch said at the time of his retirement. Mr. Leach commented then that his career had been "fascinating and grand . . . I've had satisfaction in my job."

Born in Lafeytte, Ind., Mr. Leach began his career as a $10-week sports writer for the Chicago Daily News in 1910. Six years later, he began general news reporting and became a domestie war correspondent during World War I, covering officers' training camps.

In 1924 he became political eidtor of the Daily News and covered both major political conventions in that year. He traveled with Charles G. Dawes, the first federal budget director and Calvin Coolidge's vice president. He later wrote Dawe's biography.

Mr. Leach became Washington bureau chief for the Knight chain in 1940. His first Washington assignment was covering congressional investigations of the Ku Klux Klan.

His post-retirement activities included foreign service reporting for the Daily News from Hawaii. He also was selected as a consultant on the Pentagon undertaking to declassify military material from World War II.

A fiction writer as well, Mr. Leach had published short stories and articles in the Saturday Evening Post, Reader's Digest and other national magazines.

He served as secretary, treasurer and, in 1952, as president of the Gridiron Club. He was a member of Sigma Delta Chi, the professional journalists society, and served on the board of the National Press Club. He moved to Ormaond Beach in 1963.

Mr. Leach is survived by his wife, Clara B., of the home; a son Paul R. Jr., of Wilmington, Del, a daughter, Elizabeth J. Clarke, of San Diego; a brother Donald A., of Ottawa, III., and six grandchildren.