Edward Gallagher, 72, an insurance and surety attorney in Washington for more than 45 years, died of cardiac arrest Saturday at his home in Washington.

He was a former chairman of the fidelity and surety committee of the American Bar Association's insurance, negligence, and compensatory law section.

Mr. Gallagher was a native of West Haven, Conn., and came to Washington in the early 1920s. He was a 1928 graduate of Georgetown University and earned a law degree at George Washington University's law school three years later.

During the 1930s, he practiced with the old Washington firm of Clark & LaRoe. He was an Army lieutenant colonel during World War II and served with the Judge Advocate General's Corps. From 1942 to 1945, he was a legal aide to the then Undersecretary of War Robert Patterson. Mr. Gallagher earned the Legion of Merit.

Following the war, Mr. Gallagher resumed his legal practice in Washington. In 1974, his son, Edward Graham Gallagher, joined him in his practice.

Mr. Gallagher was active in the District of Columbia Bar, the Bar Association of the District of Columbia, the Federal Bar Association, and the International Association of Insurance Counsel.

He was a member of Colombia Country Club.

In addition to his son of Washington, Mr. Gallagher's survivors include his wife of 38 years, Elizabeth Graham Gallagher of Washington; a brother, District of Columbia Court of Appeals Judge George R. Gallagher of Potomac, and two sisters, Mary Marshall and Vera Avery, both of Washington.