Herbert W. Foster, 59, a former reporter with the old United Press who had been an official of the National Coal Association since 1957, died Sunday of congestive heart failure and renal cancer. He was pronounced dead at Prince George's General Hospital in Cheverly after being stricken in his Hyattsville home.

Mr. Foster joined the National Coal Association, a trade organization representing coal mining companies, as associate director of public relations. He was named vice president for press relations in 1972 and held that post until the time of his death.

He joined United Press in 1946, working in Atlanta, Ga., and Raleigh, N.C. He moved to the U.P. Washington bureau in 1950. During the next seven years he covered the Labor Department, Congress, the national political conventions of 1952 and 1956, and the 1956 vice presidential campaign of Richard M. Nixon.

Mr. Foster was a native of Amarillo, Tex., and a 1941 graduate of the University of Missouri, where he earned a degree in journalism.He served with the Army Air Corps in the Pacific during World War II.

He was a member of St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church in Adelphi where he had taught church school and served for a time as a senior warden.

Survivors include his wife, the former Mary Ann Blew, of the home; a daughter, Mrs. Thomas Dowdy, of Takoma Park, and his mother, Mrs. Herbert W. Foster Sr., of Washington.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church or the American Cancer Society.