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Some news stories capture attention throughout the world, stories like the Lindbergh saga and the Sept. 11 attacks.

A century ago in Salt Lake City, such a story unfolded after John G. Morrison and his 17-year old son, Arling, were coldly gunned down in their family's grocery store. That same night, a Swedish immigrant showed up at a doctor's office in Murray, bleeding from a gunshot wound. He alluded to a romantic rivalry but refused to provide any further details of the origins of his injury, or alibi, when accused of the murders.

So begins the legend of Joe Hill, activist, songwriter, artist and cartoonist, all of which led him to become the global voice for a labor movement and, in death, a martyr for workers' rights.

During the next three months, leading up to the centennial of Hill's Nov. 19, 1915, execution by firing squad at what is now Sugar House Park, the story will be the center of public discussion, debate and reflection.

In the pages of The Salt Lake Tribune, and on special digital pages at, the story of Hill, the Morrisons, Utah Gov. William Spry, President Woodrow Wilson and countless other players will be told in words, in photographs both historic and current, in music and video, and in the display of historic documents from the day. Those documents include undercover agents' notes from the investigation, letters imploring Spry to issue a pardon, and news stories from the reporters who sat in The Tribune newsroom a century before us.

We have added a special component to to tell the many facets of the Joe Hill story, including video interviews with descendants of John Morrison, historians and music videos of contemporary Utah artists performing Hill's songs.

Our political cartoonist Pat Bagley will weigh in on our opinion pages with a six-installment retelling of the story in the style of a mini-graphic novel.

It is an understatement that this story has captivated our newsroom as the anniversary approaches, and no one more so than Tribune Director of Photography Jeremy Harmon. His interest could be described as obsession, the sort of passion possessed by good journalists sensing a great story and determined to do it justice.

Harmon initially was attracted by Hill's songs and his place in American folk music, then the intrigue of the murder trial and evidence that has convinced many of Hill's innocence. Eventually, Harmon saw the social universality of the story — income disparity, immigrant discrimination, economic exploitation.

"Reading about the political climate and events in play at the time of Hill's execution is like reading about the difficult issues we face today," Harmon says. "Very little has changed. It's incredible to read about what people were facing 100 years ago and realize that, in many ways, those same things are going on now."

Our coverage debuts Sunday with a profile of the Morrison family by Harmon, reporter Tom Harvey and Managing Editor Sheila R. McCann. In it, descendants talk candidly of the tragic legacy from that fateful night. In The Mix, Harmon explores Hill's music and reporter Sean P. Means investigates a painting with a possible connection to Hill. Our comprehensive online presentation also appears Sunday, as does Bagley's graphic narrative.

We hope you enjoy our coverage the next three months, that perhaps you learn something about one of the 20th century's big stories. And, as Harmon says, how it reflects on the issues of our time.

Terry Orme is The Tribune's editor and publisher. Reach him at