George Edward Thomas, 72, who served as President John F. Kennedy's valet during his Washington years, died Saturday at Howard University Hospital. He had a heart ailment.

Mr. Thomas, who lived in Washington, began working for the late president in 1947, Kennedy's first year as a congressman, and had accompanied the president to Dallas on Nov. 23, 1963, the day of his assassination.

After the assassination, numerous books and articles documented the obvious affection between the two men. In his 1967 book, "The Death of a President," author William Manchester wrote of a conversation between President Kennedy and Mr. Thomas in the tail compartment of the Air Force One after landing at the Dallas airport the day of the assassination. Manchester wrote that Kennedy had joked with Mr. Thomas about his home town of Berryville, Va., before winking and stepping out onto the airport ramp. "You know, George," the president said, "I think this is a bigger town than you come from."

The Manchester book also gives an account of one of Mr. Thomas' last acts as the president's valet, when Kennedy's body was being dressed:

"The presidential valet recalled that [the President's] dislike of flamboyant monograms had extended to handerchiefs. Kennedy had carefully folded them so that the initials would not show, and Thomas did it for him now, slipping the handkerchief into his coat pocket."

Mr. Thomas, who had worked as a valet before going to work for Kennedy, was a confidential aide to the chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. from 1965 until his retirement two years ago.

Survivors include four sisters, Daisy Shamwell, Esther Thomas and Elizabeth Morrison, all of Washington, and Fannie Wilson of Lancaster, Pa., and a brother, Stephen J. Thomas of Berryville.