George H. Hanst was born in Oakland, Garrett County, Maryland, on January 13, 1934. His father, George Herbert Hanst, was the editor of The Republican, a weekly newspaper. His mother was Polly Hanst, a 4-H Extension Agent, columnist for The Farmer's Wife (a national magazine that was later incorporated into the Farm Journal), and a home economics teacher at Northern High School.
After graduating from Oakland High School, Hanst attended Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland, on a Senatorial scholarship. At Washington College, he was editor of the school newspaper, a member of Phi Sigma Kappa, and a member of the school's tennis team.
In 1956, a year after he graduated from Washington College, Hanst moved to Baltimore and joined the Baltimore Evening Sun as a copy boy. After a month, Hanst began writing high school sports stories.
In 1959, the Evening Sun assigned Hanst to cover crime in the police districts of Baltimore City. After a brief stint covering Anne Arundel County government, he was dispatched to the Court House. From 1967 to 1981, Hanst covered the Supreme Bench (now the Circuit Court) of Baltimore City during a time of immense change and drama. The court's caseload expanded exponentially during this period; the bench added its first female and African-American judges, and the legal system had its first African-American state's attorney. In addition, Hanst covered such momentous events as the round-the-clock trials held in the wake of the Baltimore riots that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., in April 1968, and many notable cases of the period, including ones involving alleged municipal corruption. He became known for "Court Docket," the daily report that covered the most serious, dramatic cases handled by the Baltimore criminal courts as well as offbeat and funny issues that found their way to legal disposition. Hanst preferred that the stories in the "Court Docket" be unique: ones not obtained by his "competitors" at the Sun and the News American, but he insisted on covering every homicide case, even if the other papers did, because murder, he said, was "the ultimate crime." The public recognized Hanst for reporting the nicknames of many of the defendants, and his colleagues admired the precision and concision of his copy.
In 1981, Hanst became a copy editor for the Evening Sun, partially due to the fact that he was an authority on grammar, spelling, and street numbers in Baltimore City. No one had ever corrected his copy while he was working on "Court Docket," but he frequently sent notes to editors about mistakes he had found in the previous day's edition.
On June 17, 1967, Hanst married Barbara Mann. The couple had two children: Jonathan and Jennifer. Hanst was a member of the newspaper guild and was active in the affairs of the Ascension Evangelical Lutheran Church, where he was a member of the choir for twenty-five years. George H. Hanst died on January 6, 1995 at the age of sixty, of complications from a brain tumor that was diagnosed in 1993. He retired from the Evening Sun two weeks prior to his death.