Vincent Wasilewski, 76, a communications lawyer who headed the National Association of Broadcasters for 17 years before stepping down in 1982 to join a D.C. law firm, died Sept. 9 at Washington Hospital Center of complications following heart surgery. He had homes in Bethesda; Vero Beach, Fla.; and Lake Placid, N.Y.

Mr. Wasilewski, who was a senior partner in the Washington law firm of Dow, Lohnes and Albertson from 1982 to 1989, was best known as the president and chief executive officer of the broadcasting industry trade association. At the time of his departure, the association represented 670 television and 4,700 radio stations around the country.

He saw the industry grow tremendously during his tenure, and at times, became embroiled in hot button issues that continue to be heavily debated -- such as violence on television, cigarette advertising and the rising costs of political campaign advertising. Through it all, Mr. Wasilewski remained a staunch supporter of broadcasters' "right of free speech."

Well regarded on Capitol Hill, he was credited with winning the industry important procedural and legal victories, such as extending the length of license terms for radio and television stations, shortening the license renewal process and persuading the Federal Communications Commission to reject a plan to crowd more radio stations onto the AM radio dial.

Still he found himself the target of critics who complained about general coverage of news events and the content of entertainment programming.

Broadcasting "presents a target which does not have that impregnable shield of the First Amendment to ward off or to ridicule those who would like to tamper with freedom of speech and communication," he told The Washington Post while serving as NAB's manager of government relations.

He joined the association directly out of the University of Illinois Law School in 1949 and served as chief counsel and executive vice president before becoming president in 1965. He was born in Athens, Ill. During World War II, he served with the Army Air Forces in India and China as a B-29 crew member. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal.

He also received numerous professional awards, including the NAB's Distinguished Service Award.

His first wife, Patricia Wasilewski, died in 1989.

Survivors include his wife, Marjorie Nohowel Wasilewski of Bethesda; six children from his first marriage, Jan Wasilewski of Key Biscayne, Fla., Susan Wasilewski of Dallas, Cathy Wasilewski of Portland, Ore., Terese Wasilewski of Virginia Beach and Thomas Wasilewski and James Wasilewski, both of Vienna; three stepchildren, Steve Nohowel of Potomac, Margaret Nohowel Wasilewski of Bethesda and Shelley Nohowel of New Hope, Pa.; two brothers; three sisters; and 11 grandchildren.