This 1967 Photo Celebrates Life And Everyday Heroism

This picture is one of the most powerful celebrations of life in the history of American journalism. The Kiss Of Life, taken by Rocco Morabito, won the Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography in 1968.

The story behind this iconic shot remains a symbol of everyday heroism.

Photo: Rocco Morabito/Jacksonville Journal/Times-Union Archives

Rocco Morabito was driving through Springfield on an assignment when he saw electricians working on the utility pole. He was hurrying to the strike on the Florida East Coast Railroad, so he passed the crew without a second thought.

It was on the way back that he noticed something was wrong. One of the guys was dangling from the pole giving no signs of life.

“I heard screaming. I looked up and I saw this man hanging down. Oh my God. I didn’t know what to do,” Morabito shared later. He took his camera and rushed to help.

Rocco Morabito with his iconic photo. Photo: Ray Stafford/Times-Union Archives

Linemen Randall Champion and J.D. Thompson were performing routine maintenance when Champion accidentally grabbed live wire. The jolt of electricity left him injured, and it could have killed him had it not been for his co-worker.

“[The electrical current] came out his – I think it was the left foot,” Thompson recalled in 2017. “And it blew a hole where it came out his foot.”

Randall Champion in 1988 visited in hospital by Rocco Morabito and J.D. Thompson. Photo: Times-Union Archives

J.D. Thompson remembered his emergency training and went up the pole to rescue Randall. It was nearly impossible to perform CPR while the men were high up, so he tried to resuscitate his fellow with a mouth-to-mouth. And, thankfully, it worked.

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“I was putting air in him as hard as I could go,” Thompson said. “And also trying to reach around him and hit him in the chest. And, all at once, he came to.”

That was the moment Morabito captured in the historic picture. A man saving another man’s life.

“I went to my car and called an ambulance,” the photographer recalled. “I got back to the pole and J.D. was breathing into Champion. Then I heard Thompson shouting down: He’s breathing!”

Champion went on to lead a normal life. He and his wife had a son and three daughters. The man retired from Jacksonville Electric Authority in the early 1990s after 30 years of service.

Source: Rare Historical Photos, First Coast News, Find A Grave

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