George A. Bowles Jr., 61, a political columnist for 25 Virginia newspapers and a commentator for the Virginia News Network for the past decade, died of a heart ailment March 9 at his home and birthplace in Kents Store, Va.

Following his graduation from what is now Virginia Commonwealth University, Mr. Bowles joined the Air Force. He served in Korea during the war there and later in Europe. He was stationed in the Air Force Office of Special Investigations in Washington when he retired in 1971 with the rank of lieutenant colonel.

He then returned to Kents Store and began a career in journalism. In the early 1970s he started a column that appeared in the Charlottesville Daily Progress and 24 other newspapers in Virginia. From 1973 to 1977 he also was editorial page editor of the Daily Progress.

At the same time, he began covering politics for radio station WINA in Charlottesville, and for the past decade he was a commentator for the Virginia News Network.

Gov. Gerald L. Baliles said Mr. Bowles "was a keen observer of Virginia political life, a reporter who possessed a sixth sense for events. His insights into Virginia political affairs were only exceeded by his understanding and grasp of the history of Virginia and its people."

Mr. Bowles was a founder and past president of the Virginia Capitol Correspondents Association in Richmond.

Survivors include his wife, Nancy Thumma Bowles of Kents Store; four sons, George A. Bowles III of Barboursville, Va., James K. Bowles of Knoxville, Tenn., Mark T. Bowles of Richmond, and Thomas A. Bowles of Charlottesville, and one grandchild.