Stephen F. Dunn, 71, a retired president of the National Coal Association and a former general counsel of the Department of Commerce, died Wednesday at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda of complications following surgery for an intestinal disorder.

Mr. Dunn, who was born in Scranton, Pa., graduated from Cornell University and earned a law degree at the University of Michigan. He was a lawyer in Grand Rapids, Mich., until 1953, when he was appointed general counsel of the Commerce Department by President Eisenhower. He served there for two years.

He then returned to his law practice in Grand Rapids. In 1957, Mr. Dunn moved to the Washington area permanently. For the next three years, he was vice president for government relations of the National Associaiton of Manufacturers and the head of the organization's Washington office.

In 1960, Mr. Dunn was named the first president of the National Coal Association and held that post until 1971. He continued as chairman of the orginization's executive commitee and as a consultant until his full retirement in 1972.

In 1971 and 1972, Mr. Dunn was an employer adviser to the U.S. delegation to the International Labor Organization in Geneva. He also was a delegate to the World Energy Conference in Bucharest, Romania.

Mr. Dunn, who lived in Silver Spring and maintained a winter residence in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was a member of Christ Methodist Church in Fort Lauderdale, the Washington Rotary Club, the Burning Tree Club and the Metropolitan Club.

Survivors include his wife, the former Eleanor Frances Oliver, of Silver Spring and Fort Lauderdale; two daughters, Barbara Dunn Walker of Fresno, Calif., and Betsy Dunn Stewart of Chevy Chase; one half-brother, Goble D. Dean of Orlando, Fla., and five grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to The Foundation for Christian Living, Pawling, N.Y., 12564.