Thomas W. Hunter, 71, who retired in 1973 as an economist with the Bureau of Mines of the Department of the Interior, died of cancer Wednesday at his home in Bethesda.

Since retiring, he had been an energy consultant to both private and government organizations.

Mr. Hunter joined the federal government in 1934 as an adviser to the National Recovery Administration. He became an Interior Department employe a year later. He worked for the first Bituminous Coal Commission Division, the National Bituminous Coal Commission and the Solid Fuels Administration for War as well as the Bureau of Mines.

He received a number of honors, including the Interior Department's Meritorious Service and Superior Performance awards.

Mr Hunter was born in Athens, Ill. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma and took graduate studies at George Washington University.

During World War II, he was on active duty with the Navy Reserves.

He was a member of the American Statistical Association, the American Institute of Mining Engineers, Interior Department Post No. 63 of the American Legion, the DeMolay Legion of Honor, the Washington Host Lions Club and the University Club. He was a communicant of Grace Episcopal Church in Silver Spring.

He is survived by his wife, Henrietta, and a son, Jon Lewis, of the home; a daughter, Barbara Anne, of Laurel, and two sisters, Lucille Mangum, of Wilmington, Del., and Winifred Wales, of Silver Spring. CAPTION: Picture, THOMAS W. HUNTER