Samuel B. Bledsoe, 81, a former journalist and government official who retired in 1971 as head of the Washington office of the industrial public relations firm of Selvage & Lee, died Sunday in Sibley Memorial Hospital. He had a heart ailment.

Mr. Bledsoe came to Washington in 1928 and worked for the Associated Press before the joining the Agriculture Department seven years later. While at Agriculture he was assistant to the secretary, assistant to the information director, and head of the Office of Agricultural War Relations.

He returned to journalism in 1943 and was a reporter for the Washington bureaus of The New York Times and the the U.S. News. After working a short time for the National Cotton Council he joined the National Association of Manufacturers and rose to the position of assistant vice president of the Washington office before resigning to join Selvage & Lee in 1947.

Following his 1971 retirement from Selvage & Lee, he became a senior consultant to the public relations firm of Wagner & Baroody. He retired a second time five years later.

Mr. Bledsoe had belonged to the National Press Club for about 50 years. His family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the club in Mr. Bledsoe's name.

A native of Bagota, Tenn., Mr. Bledsoe worked on the staff of the Memphis Commercial Appeal before coming to Washington.

He is survived by his wife, Dorothy D., of the home in Washington, and Carter D., of Cleveland, Ohio; a sister, Nell Ranney, of Friars Point, Miss., and three grandchildren.