Holmes Alexander, 79, a newspaper columnist whose work appeared in the old Washington Star and other papers and an author whose books included novels and a memoir about riding in steeplechase races, died of a heart ailment Dec. 5 at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center in Towson, Md.

A resident of Washington from the post-World War II years until he moved to Lutherville, Md., earlier this year, Mr. Alexander was born in Charles Town, W.Va. He grew up in Baltimore.

He graduated from Princeton University and attended Trinity College at Cambridge University, England.

In the early 1930s, he served in the Maryland General Assembly as a Democrat from Baltimore County. He also served on the Maryland film censorship board and was a speechwriter for then-Gov. Herbert R. O'Conor. During World War II, he was an officer in the old Army Air Forces in Europe.

After the war, Mr. Alexander worked briefly for Kiplinger publications here. He began his column about 1947 and it was distributed by the McNaught Syndicate. In addition to the Star, it appeared in the Alexandria Gazette, the Washington Times, the Richmond newspapers and others around the country.

His books included "Between The Stirrup and The Ground," which was about his days as a steeplechase rider in Maryland and England, and "The Spirit of '76," a political novel.

Mr. Alexander was a member of the 1925 F Street Club, the Metropolitan Club and the National Press Club, of which he was a former governor.

His first wife, Mary Barksdale Alexander, died in 1978.

Survivors include his wife, Rosalind Alexander of Lutherville; three children, Hunter H., of Alexandria, Peter B., of Peqea, Pa., and Madge Alexander Dufour of Hot Springs, Va.; a brother, William B., also of Hot Springs; nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.