Charles A. Lewis, 71, a retired Commerce Department official, died Friday at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital where he was taken following a one-car accident earlier that day.

Montgomery County police said Mr. Lewis apparently had a heart attack while driving alone in his car. The vehicle hit a utility pole near the intersection of Muncaster Mill Road and Emory Lane in the Norbeck section of Montgomery County.

Mr. Lewis joined the Commerce Department in 1936, the year he moved to Washington. At the same time he retired in 1976, he was director of the office of construction and materials industries in the department's Business and Defense Services Administration.

In the late 1950s, he was appointed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to lead an economic development mission in Brazil.

Mr. Lewis was born in Wichita, Kan., and reared in Des Moines, Iowa. He was a resident of Silver Spring.

Survivors include his wife, Pauline of Silver Spring; five children, Doris Conger of Philadelphia, Karen Troe of Sacramento, Calif., Delene Lewis of Gaithersburg, Shannon Lewis of New York City, and Charles Lewis of Silver Spring; a sister, Marion Wlasenko of Des Moines; three brothers, Raymond of Florida, John of Des Moines, and Robert of Alexandria, and six grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the American Heart Association.