Virginia Emerson Lewis, 71, a professor emeritus of political science at Hood College in Frederick, Md., and a former head of its department of history and political science, died of cancer Dec. 4 at Frederick Memorial Hospital.

Dr. Lewis, a former lawyer with the Treasury Department, joined the faculty at Hood in 1947. She was chairman of the department of history and political science from the early 1960s until 1979, when she retired with the rank of professor emeritus. She continued to teach until recently.

Earlier this year, Hood established the Virginia Emerson Lewis chair in politics in her honor.

Dr. Lewis was born in Memphis. She graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in 1935 and later moved to the District of Columbia. She earned a law degree at George Washington University in 1941 and a doctorate in political science at New York University in 1955. She was a lawyer at Treasury until joining the faculty at Hood.

Since 1978, she had been a member of the judicial nominating commission for the 6th Judicial District of Maryland.

Dr. Lewis was active in Democratic Party politics in Frederick County, Md., and headed a number of campaign committees there over the years. She contributed papers to professional journals and also wrote for various periodicals and newspapers, including The Washington Post.

Survivors include two brothers, Robert Lewis of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Ralph Lewis of Memphis.