Reacting yesterday to the death of Potter Stewart, Chief Justice Warren E. Burger said, "For more than two decades, Justice Stewart gave dedicated and distinguished service to our country, first on the Court of Appeals and then on the Supreme Court. His death removes a splendid jurist from the bench. We mourn his loss."

President Reagan said he was "deeply saddened" to learn of the death. "It is as a patriot and a good lawyer -- indeed a brilliant man of the law -- that we remember Justice Potter Stewart," Reagan said.

Vice President Bush, one of Justice Stewart's closest friends, learned of the death as he sat watching the Army-Navy football game at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. He scribbled his thoughts on a scrap of paper for a reporter.

"Justice Stewart was truly an outstanding man," Bush wrote. "The symbol of decency and honor, he served on our highest court with objectivity. He was a constitutional scholar who interpreted the Constitution without succumbing to the temptation to legislate from the bench."

Bush also said the retired justice was "one of our closest personal friends. Barbara and I loved him very much. We will miss him."

At the Supreme Court, Justice Stewart's colleagues described him as a great and distinguished member of the court.

Said Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr.: "Justice Stewart's ability as a jurist of great distinction is documented in some 80 volumes of the U.S. Reports. His highly constructive role in the day-to-day functioning of the court can only be known by those privileged to serve with him. He often led in working out a consensus. He had the rare ability to be, at the same time, a forceful advocate and a generous colleague."

Justice William J. Brennan Jr. said, "Justice Stewart was more than a colleague and a very great and distinguished justice. He was a very close personal friend. I shall miss him very much."

"He was truly great as a justice and as an American," Justice Thurgood Marshall said. "He always put his country ahead of everything else."

Justice Bryon R. White said, "He was a great and extremely enjoyable colleague, and I have missed him since his retirement very much. I am sure he has left his mark in the books."

"Potter Stewart was a good friend and a great justice. He has been a true source of inspiration for me, and I shall miss him more than I can say," Justice John Paul Stevens said.

Judge Irving R. Kaufman, chairman of the President's Commission on Organized Crime, on which Justice Stewart served, said, "I am deeply grieved at the sudden loss of my colleague and dear friend. His very presence added much stature and wisdom" to the commission.