Edwin W. Pauley, 78, the multimillionaire oil man who was a national Democratic Party figure and adviser to four presidents, died at his home Tuesday after a long illness. The cause of death was not reported.

Mr. Pauley was an adviser to four Democratic presidents, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, in whose administration he was particularly prominent, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

During a long and often controversial career in California and Washington, he rose to the top in four fields -- business, politics, education and sports.

In the 1930s, Mr. Pauley emerged as a spokesman for the oil industry and within a few years won a reputation as a ranking power in the Democratic Party.

During the 1940s, he was the Democratic Party's national treasurer. In 1944, he helped persuade Roosevelt to drop Henry Wallace as his running mate and replace him with Truman.

During World War II, he shaped Roosevelt's petroleum policy, organizing the Petroleum Administration for Defense, which built the first oil pipeline from Texas to the East Coast. He oversaw the Lend-Lease program supplying fuel to Britain and Russia.

When the war ended in Europe, Mr. Pauley attended the Potsdam Conference with Truman. He also was Truman's ambassador and U.S. representative to the Allied War Reparations Commission, taking part in the dismantling of the German and Japanese war machines.

In 1946, he was nominated by Truman to be under secretary of the Navy. Mr. Pauley asked that his name be withdrawn as a result of a controversy in which Interior Secretary Harold L. Ickes claimed that Mr. Pauley had advised against the federal government seeking title to offshore oil lands from the states because this would cause California oilmen to withhold contributions from the Democratic Party.

But Mr. Pauley retained Truman's confidence and was appointed special assistant to the secretary of the Army. He ran into opposition from Republican presidential candidate Harold E. Stassen, who asserted that Mr. Pauley had used "inside" information to make windfall profits on the commodity market. He denied the charges, but resigned from the post and ended his public life in Washington.

Mr. Pauley, who was born in Indianapolis and grew up in Alabama, moved to California to attend Occi-[WORDS ILLEGIBLE] from the University of California at Berkeley, having worked his way through college as an oil field roustabout and encyclopedia salesman.

After a year on the Berkeley teaching staff, he worked with his father in the Pauley Oil Co. until the firm was sold in 1927. He then organized the Petrol Corp., an independent firm engaged in exploration, production, refining and marketing. He incorporated Pauley Petroleum Inc., in 1958. He also had interests in banking, real estate and commodities.

From 1934 to 1938, Mr. Pauley was president of the Independent Petroleum Association, the job that provided him with an entree into public life.

During the 32 years he sat on the University of California Board of Regents, Mr. Pauley helped guide the university through its most dramatic period of growth, contributing not only his time and energy but his money. It was estimated he gave more than $2.2 million to the university.

In sports, Mr. Pauley participated by winning the 1939 Trans-Pacific Yacht Race San Francisco to Honolulu. He later became part owner of the Los Angeles Rams football team. That led to an ownership struggle that ended when Daniel F. Reeves bought out Mr. Pauley.

After leaving Washington, Mr. Pauley returned to California to pursue his business interests, tend to his duties as a regent and enjoy sports -- hunting, sailing, tennis -- and vacationing on his private island in Hawaii.

Survivors include his wife, Barbara Jean, and four children, Edwin Jr., Dr. Stephen Pauley, Robert V.,[Words illegible]