Morris Pollin, 79, a Russian immigrant who became a major Washington home-builder and who was father of Capital Centre owner Abe Pollin, died yesterday of cancer at his home in the Rittenhouse apartment building on 16th Street N.W.

Mr. Pollin was for 32 years head of Morris Pollin & Sons, a construction firm. He founded the company, which grossed millions of dollars, in 1945 with his sons, Abe and Jack. The company is now called the Pollin Development Co.

In 1947, Mr. Pollin let his sons take day-to-day responsibility for the construction company, although he remained its president.

In the 1950s, Mr. Pollin was involved in many philanthropic activities, founding a home for retarded children in Washington and making major contributions to several Jewish causes, including the Jewish National Fund, the United Jewish Appeal, the Hebrew Home for the Aged and the Jewish Community Center, relatives said.

He was voted "Man of the Year" by the Hebrew Academy of Washington in 1950, and served as honorary president of the united Jewish Appeal and the Israel Bond Association. During a trip to Israel he received the "Guest of Honor" award from the Shaare Zedek Hospital.

He was a great example to his sons and grandsons for his business leadership and as a human being," said his son Abe, who also owns the Washington Bullets basketball team and the Washington Capitals hockey team. "He had the gift of helping other people."

Abe Pollin said his father came to the United States when he was 16 with his mother and other relatives to escape the persecution of Jews in his native Koristishov, Russia.

Morris Pollin settled in Philadelphia where he worked as a plumber's helper and went to school to become a registered plumber. During the Depression he left the Philadelphia area and moved here.

Mr. Pollin became the largest plumbing contractor in the Washington area five years after moving here in 1931. According to Abe Pollin, his father's firm had 300 employees.

Mr. Pollin operated the plumbing firm until 1945, when the development company was founded.

"He was a self-made man with no formal education," said Abe Pollin. "He was a model and a counsel for me in business matters, no question about it. What was so special about him was that because of his fairness in business and his charity, he was loved and respected by everyone he met."

Mr. Pollin is survived by his wife, Jennie, of the home in Washington; two sons, Abe, of Bethesda, and Harold of Portland, Ore. (a third son, Jack, died in 1973); two sisters, Gertrude Richman and Rebecca Cooper, both of Washington; three brothers, Jack and Harry of Silver Spring, and Dan. of Miami, Fla.; eight grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.