Joseph Hanlon, 73, a former Washington correspondent for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and an editor for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Education Association, died Sunday at his home in Silver Spring. He had been suffering from diabetes.

Mr. Hanlon was born in Rockland, Ill. He began his career on the Post-Dispatch in 1926 following his graduation from the University of St. Louis. He was transferred to the paper's Washington bureau in 1945 and covered the White House, the Supreme Court and Capitol Hill until 1953, when he resigned.

From 1954 to 1958, Mr. Hanlon was an associate editor of the Legislative Daily, a publication of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He then served as press secretary for former Senator Thomas E. Hennings (D-Mo.). In 1959, he joined the staff of Education USA, which is published by the National Education Association. At the time of his retirement in 1967, he was senior editor.

Mr. Hanlon helped organize the Post-Dispatch unit of The Newspaper Guild in 1934 and was one of the charter members of the labor union.

He was a member of the National Press Club, the White House Correspondents Association, Les Chevaliers du Tastevin and the Society for International Development.

Survivors include his wife of 47 years, Margaret, of the home in Silver Spring; three daughters, Margaret M., of Mexico City; Moira Little, of Silver Spring, and Judity Cleaver, of Columbia, Md., and two sons, John J., of Ashton, Md., and Lawrence B., of Washington.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the American Diabetes Association, 7961 Eastern Ave., Silver Spring, Md.