Edwin L. Covey, 83, retired chief of the bankruptcy division in the administrative office of the U.S. Courts, died at Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park on Friday following a stroke.

Mr. Covey served as a referee in bankruptcy in Illinois from 1934 to 1942. In the latter year, he was appointed chief of the bankruptcy division in the administrative office of the U.S. Courts. The office is an administrative branch of the U.S. Supreme Court. He retired in 1962.

He was born in Peoria, Ill., and graduated from the University of Illinois. After World War I service as an ensign in the Navy, he earned law degrees at the University of Illinois. He was in private practice in Peoria from 1920 until his appointment as a referee in bankruptcy in 1934.

After leaving the government, Mr. Covey was an adjunct professor of bankruptcy law at Georgetown University Law School until 1966.

Survivors include his wife, the former Marie Rotenberry, of the home in Silver Spring: three sons, Stephen J. and Charles A., both of Peoria, and Thomas L., of Stamford, Conn.; a daughter, Elizabeth Williams, of Stockton, Calif.; two sisters, Marion Griesser, of Arizona, and Thirza Tinthoff, of Peoria; 10 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.