William J. Howder, 79, an attorney in Washington and Northern Virginia for 50 years, died Nov. 20 at Alexandria Hospital. He had a gallstone blockage.

Mr. Howder was born in Bellevue, Ky., and grew up there and in Washington. He graduated from Gonzaga High School here.

In the early 1920s, he began working for the Veterans Administration. At the same time, he attended night classes at Columbus Law School, now part of Catholic University, and earned his law degree in 1928. He was admitted to practice in the District of Columbia the following year.

Mr. Howder continued to work at the VA while establishing a private law practice in Washington. He resigned from the government in the mid-1930s and practiced law in Washington and Northern Virginia until his death.

Mr. Howder was a member of the D.C. Bar, the Virginia State Bar and the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States. He was a member of Washington Lodge No. 15 of the Elks and a former member of St. Aloysius Catholic Church in Washington.

Survivors include his son, Murray L. of Washington; a daughter, Janet C. Viands of Rockville; a sister, Marie Steele of Harrisonburg, Va.; five grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter.