George Crutchfield, 77, director of the Dow Jones News Fund’s southern region editing residency program for more than 25 years, died Tuesday of congestive heart failure in Richmond, Va.

Mr. Crutchfield shepherded hundreds of copy editing interns through rigorous training starting in 1979 at Virginia Commonwealth University where he was director of the Department of Mass Communications and later at Florida Southern College in Lakeland after he retired from VCU in 1999.

In the book, “Copy! The first 50 years of the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund,” Dr. Rick Kenney, described the man this way: Crutchfield, whose demeanor, appearance, and speech have always suggested that he had been sent from central casting to play a Virginia squire, drilled interns constantly on style, spelling and general knowledge. He found teachable moments in common conversations and would politely but firmly correct the misuse of, say, “different than.”

Each December, Mr. Crutchfield and other editing residency directors, came to Princeton to select interns for the following summer. He critiqued the applicants’ essays for their commitment to a career in editing. He told Dr. Kenney, “I tried to screen out students who really wanted to be reporters but sought the cachet that comes with having a Newspaper Fund internship on one’s resume. And the essay had to be sterling, mistake-free, really to earn consideration.”

Richard Holden, DJNF executive director, said, “It was my privilege to know and work with George for more than 15 years, first when he directed our intern program at Virginia Commonwealth and then at Florida Southern. I always looked forward to my visits to his training camps because I knew that sometime during my stay I could join him for ‘a beverage.’ He was a true Southern Gentleman and a damn good newspaperman and professor.”

Many past interns remembered Mr. Crutchfield fondly. Richard Taliaferro, a news editor at The Wall Street Journal and a DJNF alumnus, appreciated Mr. Crutchfield’s guidance. He wrote, “As a student of his at VCU, he helped me immensely to become a copy editor, and for that, I will be forever grateful.”

Several former students assisted him with the residency program, among them Dan Shorter, Greg Brock and Dr. Kenney, who co-directed the program at Florida Southern eventually becoming the director.

DJNF began supporting the Urban Journalism Workshop at VCU in 1984, during Mr. Crutchfield’s tenure.  That sponsorship has continued uninterrupted.

An obituary appears in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.  A service is schedule for 2 p.m., March 21 at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 6000 Grove Ave., Richmond, with a celebration of life at The Country Club of Virginia afterward.