Find out about the fascinating background and significance of this iconic artwork.

Photographer Rocco Morabito was on his way to a job in July while traveling along West 26th Street in Jacksonville, Florida. He passed two Jacksonville Electric Authority employees working on a power pole as they performed routine maintenance. He wondered if he should do a pit stop on the way back from his assignment to snap a few shots of the workers. He heard his cries as he got closer to the area where the guys were working. A terrible accident has occurred.

Photo credit: β€œThe Kiss of Life” by Rocco Morabito / Source

Randall G. Champion was the lineman who stood atop the pole. He appeared to have hit one of the lines on top of the utility pole by accident while doing the required repairs. He was immediately struck out when the lightning flashed through his body. Even though he didn’t fall because of his safety equipment, he was at great risk.


J.D. Thompson ran beside Champion to a 400-foot-distance start from a different pole. Thompson arrived at Champion in seconds, but he was too far away to do CPR while Champion was still in the air. He also realized that if the horse’s harness had to be taken off to get him to the ground, there would not be enough time for him to save Champion.

Thompson noticed that Champion was gasping for air and that the only thing left to do was to try to revive him. He used his lips to close Champion’s mouth off before blowing air into his colleague’s lungs. A faint pulse was found after several strong punches to the chest. Thompson saw that his colleague needed to be lowered to the ground for medical attention. He released Champion from his safety strap, flung him over his shoulder, and began descending the pole.

Thompson and another employee on the floor performed CPR before the arrival of the paramedics. Champion was breathing, had a stronger pulse, and was only partially conscious when the medical crew arrived.

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

The photographer Morabito called for an ambulance on his car’s two-way radio after stopping to take images of the workers. He realized the seriousness of the situation by looking up at the two men standing on the pole. According to the legend, he snapped a photo of Thompson giving Champion the proverbial “kiss of life,” the picture has since gained notoriety.

The startling, unedited shot won the Pulitzer Prize in 1968 and instantly attracted attention worldwide. After their battle, Thompson, Champion, and Morabito were in the public eye. Thompson was referred to be a hero more frequently than he was comfortable with.

Because of J.D. Thompson’s quick action, Randall G. Champion was granted another opportunity in life. Before passing away in 2002 at 64, Champion lived for an additional 35 years. At a hospice facility, Rocco Morabito passed away in April 2009. J.D. Thompson was in good health at the time this article was written.

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