John F. O'Connell, 75, a retired president of the National Association of Alcoholic Beverage Importers Inc., died of cancer Wednesday at his home in Chevy Chase.

Mr. O'Connell spent much of his life as an executive in the liquor industry. But he began his career as a special agent of the FBI and later was an investigator in the office of the district attorney of New York County when former Gov. Thomas E. Dewey of New York held that post.

A native of Milford, Mass., Mr. O'Connell earned a degree from Boston College in 1927. He attended Georgetown University Law School, but earned his law degree from Boston University in 1930. In the same year, he was appointed a special agent of the FBI and served in Brimingham, Ala., and elsewhere in the United States.

About 1935, Mr. O'Connell was named assistant chief investigator in the New York County district attorney's office. From 1938 to 1943, he was chief investigator.

In 1943, Dewey, who had become governor of New York, appointed Mr. O'Connell chairman of the New York State Liquor Authority. He stayed in that post until 1955, when he became president of the Paul Masson Vineyards in California.

In 1957, Mr. O'Connell returned to New York and was managing associate of Gov. Dewey's law firm there.

Two years later, he moved to the Washington area to become vice president of the Distilled Spirits Institute. He remained with the DSI until 1964, when he was named president of the national Association of Alcoholic Beverage Importers Inc.

Mr. O'Connell was a founder and past president of the Association of Former Special Agents of the FBI. He also was a member of the board of the national Multiple Sclerosis Society and a director of the Sky Ranch Foundation for Boys in Sky Ranch, S.D., a facility for delinquent children which is supported by the liquour industry.

His first wife, the former Marian R. Cox, died in 1970.

Survivors include his wife, the former Margaret M. Scully, of Chevy Chase; two daughters, Mary F. O'Connell and Margaret M. O'Connell, both of Arlington; a brother, T. Joseph O'Connell of Worcester, Mass., and two grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Vincent T. Lombardi Cancer Research Center, Georgetown University Hospital, Washington, D.C., 20007.