Paul E. Reichardt, 72, a retired chairman and chief executive officer of the Washington Gas Light Co. and a member of numerous area civic and professional organizations, died of a brain tumor Sept. 26 at his home in Bethesda.

Mr. Reichardt was a past president of the Boys Club of Greater Washington and the Civitan Club of Washington. He was a past director of the Maryland-D.C. Utilities Association and a member of the Washington Board of Trade and the D.C. Chamber of Commerce and a past chairman of the American Gas Association.

His began his career with Washington Gas Light in 1940 as a cadet engineer, and he retired in 1983. His career coincided with the growth of the Washington area from about 900,000 to more than 3 million. By 1970, nearly 90 percent of the homes in the Washington area were heated with gas.

These numbers diminished in the 1970s when gas shortages forced a moratorium on gas hookups. Current penetration is between 40 and 50 percent.

Mr. Reichardt was a native of Philadelphia and a graduate of what is now Drexel University. Before becoming chairman and chief executive officer in 1974, he served as a vice president of corporate planning and services.

He served on the advisory committee of the Federal Energy Administration and the executive advisory committee of the Federal Power Commission's Natural Gas Survey, and he was a past director of the Gas Research Institute. He was a member of the American Chemical Society and the American Institute of Chemists. He was a past deputy chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

His first wife, Sybil Reichardt, died in 1987.

Survivors include his wife, Dorothy Reichardt of Bethesda; five children from his first marriage, David L. Reichardt of Arlington, Bruce A. Reichardt of Spring Lake, Mich., Wayne D. and Mark E. Reichardt, both of Gaithersburg, and Kathryn Kintzing of Shreveport, La.; a brother, Harold Reichardt of Philadelphia, and 10 grandchildren.