Edwin Tribble, 79, a former city editor and Sunday editor of the old Washington Star, died of cancer May 26 at his home in Washington.

Mr. Tribble was born in Jefferson, Ga. His newspaper career began when he was in his teens. He worked his way through Mercer College with a part-time job on the Macon Telegraph. While still an undergraduate, he became city editor.

He came to Washington on Nov. 17, 1933, to take a job on The Star as a copy editor. He was city editor from 1949 to 1958 and Sunday editor from 1958 until he retired in 1972. The latter job gave scope to his interest in books and the arts.

In the course of his career Mr. Tribble was noted for the skill with which he trained several generations of reporters. A gentle, unruffled man of erudition and probity, his instructions to beginning newspaper people were succinct: "Get it straight, make it simple, keep it short."

In retirement, he edited the letters of Woodrow Wilson and Edith Bolling Galt. His book "A President in Love" had considerable success, and Mr. Tribble was bemused when it was sold to television, a medium he disdained.

In l984, he published "A Chime of Words," a collection of letters by the English essayist Logan Pearsall Smith. At the time of his death, he was working on a biography of William Short, the first American career diplomat, who served in the administration of President Thomas Jefferson.

During World War II, Mr. Tribble served in the Army. He lectured on journalism at American University for 20 years.

Survivors include his wife, the former Emily Cunningham, of Washington; one daughter, Emily Tribble Hart of St. Simons Island, Ga.; one sister, Mrs. Julius Mitchell Elrod of Griffin, Ga., and three grandchildren.