Unveiling the Story Behind “The Kiss of Life” – A Tale of Heroism and Resilience

In July, photographer Rocco Morabito embarked on a routine assignment through Jacksonville, Florida, when a chance encounter altered the course of his day. Passing by two Jacksonville Electric Authority employees engaged in maintenance work atop a power pole on West 26th Street, Morabito contemplated capturing their labor on film. Little did he know, fate had something far more dramatic in store.

Photo credit: “The Kiss of Life” by Rocco Morabito / Source

High above, lineman Randall G. Champion inadvertently made contact with a live wire, sending a jolt of electricity coursing through his body. Despite safety gear preventing a fall, Champion’s life hung in the balance as he remained suspended perilously in mid-air.

J.D. Thompson, stationed at a distance, sprinted to Champion’s aid, realizing immediate CPR was impossible given the circumstances. Witnessing his colleague gasping for breath, Thompson knew swift action was imperative. With no time to spare, he initiated mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, breathing life into Champion’s lungs amidst the tension-filled atmosphere.

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Thompson’s efforts bore fruit as Champion exhibited signs of life, albeit faintly. With remarkable agility, Thompson swiftly released Champion’s safety harness and began the arduous descent down the pole, cradling his colleague on his shoulder.


Photo credit: Morabito with his Pulitzer Prize-winning photo / Source

On the ground, Thompson and fellow workers continued CPR until paramedics arrived, ultimately saving Champion’s life. Morabito, meanwhile, recognizing the gravity of the situation, promptly called for medical assistance while capturing the poignant moment between Thompson and Champion through his lens.

The iconic photograph, dubbed “The Kiss of Life,” captured the world’s attention and earned Morabito the prestigious Pulitzer Prize in 1968. Yet, the true heroes of this narrative were Thompson and Champion, whose resilience and quick thinking defied the odds.

Thanks to Thompson’s selfless intervention, Champion was granted a second lease on life, living another 35 years before his passing in 2002. Morabito, the photographer behind the lens, passed away in April 2009, leaving behind a legacy of profound storytelling.

As for Thompson, his bravery and heroism remain etched in history, a testament to the power of human compassion and the unwavering resolve to preserve life against all odds.

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