George Hanshue Hocker, 78, a brewery lobbyist of legendary skill who as a friend and associate of the late governor J. Millard Tawes of Maryland was a major force in state government and the Democratic Party, died of cardiac arrest July 27 at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He lived in Baltimore.
In 1933, with Prohibition repealed, Mr. Hocker organized the Associated Brewers Inc., a trade organization representing the beer barons of Maryland. The organization served not only as the beer industry's watchdog in Annapolis but also handled labor negotiations. Mr. Hocker retired from Associated Brewers about 1970.
Mr. Hocker's skill was such that the 3-cents-a-barrel state beer tax levied in 1933 was still in effect in the 1960s, by which time it had become one of the lowest in the nation.
And by the late 1950s, Mr. Hocker's horizons had expanded to include electoral politics. In 1958, he masterminded the brilliantly successful gubernatorial campaign of his close friend Tawes, and handled Tawes' reelection campaign four years later.
During the eight years of the Tawes administration, Mr. Hocker never held either elective or appointed office, nor did he have a perceived portfolio of responsibility. However, he was a member of Tawes' "kitchen cabinet" and came to be called the "assistant" or "unofficial" governor of Maryland for his influence with the de jure holder of that office.
Mr. Hocker's friends portrayed him as a public-spirited man with a yen for service who labored tirelessly for the party and for the governor he had befriended more than 20 years before. Detractors said he was a spokesman for powerful special interests and that his influence over state government had reached improper heights.
Mr. Hocker had been acting treasurer of the Maryland Democratic Party and in the early 1960s was the Maryland representative on the National Democratic Finance Committee. In 1967, the state Senate refused to confirm his nomination as member of the board of regents of the University of Maryland.
Mr. Hocker was a native of Union Deposit, Pa., and a graduate of the old Indiana State College in Pennsylvania. In 1931 he moved to Baltimore, where he taught business courses at City College. In Baltimore he owned and operated the Bard Avon School, a secretarial training establishment, and then started the Maryland Cork Co., an importer and processor of cork for shoe soles and auto gaskets.
From 1958 to 1971, he was affiliated with the Tidewater Insurance Agency, which he founded and eventually sold. At the time of his death, he owned the Hocker Realty and Investment Co., which he founded in 1959.
Survivors include his wife of 54 years, Betty G. Hocker of Baltimore; a son, George H. Hocker Jr. of Towson, Md.; two daughters, Carole Lee McCrory of Stevenson, Md., and Barbara H. Simmons of Towson, and nine grandchildren.