December 15, 2023 | Sarah Ng

The Wild Backstory Of "The Kiss Of Life"

On one fateful summer day in 1967, Rocco Morabito snapped his Pulitzer Prize-winning photo “The Kiss of Life.”

A Chance Encounter

After finishing an assignment, Morabito stumbled across an intriguing photo op—a group of Jacksonville Electric Authority linemen hard at work, clinging to electricity poles. But while looking at their figures, a scream rang out through the air.

By accident, one of the workers, Randall Champion, had come in contact with one of the deadly power lines. His body dangled upside down—limp in his safety harness. Immediately, Morabito contacted his newsroom, imploring them to send emergency services. Then he took out his camera.

"Kiss of Life", photograph by Rocco MorabitoRocco Morabito, Wikimedia Commons


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A Heroic Act

As chaos broke out amongst Champion’s co-workers, one of them came to his rescue. Fellow lineman J.D. Thompson climbed up the poll and began performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Down below, Rocco Morabito began taking the most important photographs of his life.

Thankfully, as Morabito documented the scene, Champion suddenly started gasping and came back to life. But the story didn’t end there. Over the next few months, “The Kiss of Life” photograph spread far and wide, winning Morabito and the publication he worked for, the Jacksonville Journal, high praise.

An Immortalized Moment

Less than a year after the harrowing ordeal, the photograph won a Pulitzer Prize. However, the most heartening part of all was that Randall Champion survived thanks to the heroism of J.D. Thompson. Not only did they stay close friends, but “The Kiss of Life” also forged a closeness between them and the man who captured their historic moment, Rocco Morabito.

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