John Henry Cline, 73, a retired associate editor of the Washington Star and chief editorial writer for the newspaper, died of cancer Monday at Northern Virginia Doctors Hospital in Arlington.

Mr. Cline began his newspaper career on the old Washington Times. He also worked on the Ohio State Journal in Columbus and the Detroit News in Detoit before moving to The Star in 1928. He was a general assignment reporter for The Star and later covered the federal courts, the U.S. Supreme Court and politics.

In 1949, he was named associate editor in charge of the editorial page. He retained that position until his retirement in 1969.

Mr. Cline was born in Washington. His father was the late Sheldon Scott Cline, a former managing editor of the star. Mr. Cline graduated from McKinley High School and then attended Ohio State University. He later earned a law degree from the old Columbus Law School in Washington.

He had lived in Falls Church for many years and was a former member of lts school board. He was a member of the Washington Golf and Country Club. He also was active in the American Association of Retired Persons an in the Falls Church Senior Citizens Association.

Survivors include his wife, Frances Butterworth Cline, of the home in Falls Church; a daughter, Elizabeth Hughes Melton, of Atlanta, Ga.; a son, John Brigham Cline, of Durham, N.C.; a brother, Sheldon S. Cline, of Falls Church; four sisters, Mary Hamaker, of Arlington; Elizabeth Palmer and Ann Cline, of Bethesda, and four grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the American Cancer Society or to the Falls Church Volunteer Fire Department.