A lot of us might not remember, but on July 17th, it was exactly 50 years ago that one of America’s most iconic photographs was taken. Known as the “Kiss of Life,” the photo won the Pulitzer Prize for Spot Photography in 1968 and was captured by newspaper photographer Rocco Morabito.
The image shows the rescue of an electrocuted City Electric lineman via mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. The rescuer was 26-year-old J.D. Thompson. The moment happened in 1967 when Thompson was working as a lineman for the company.
Randall Campion, a fellow employee, was about 400 feet away when he grabbed onto a live, low-voltage wire and endured a painful shock that entered his hand and left through his foot. He then hung upside down, completely unconscious. Soon after, J.D. rushed over and performed CPR. He had no idea that the photo that was taken in that moment would become a major moment in American Art history.
J.D Thompson, the star of the photo, is still alive today and remembers the exact moment that this photo took place. All the others have sadly passed away. According to Uplift, Thompson notes, “I was putting air in him as hard as I could go. And also trying to reach around him and hit him in the chest.”
He continued, remembering “And, all at once, he came to.” Uplift notes that after feeling for a pulse, J.D. was able to hoist Randall onto his shoulder and climbed to the ground, where he and another lineman performed further CPR. Eventually an ambulance showed up.
After the incident took place, Randall survived, having a skin graft on his foot. He lived for several more decades before passing away in 2002. The photographer, Rocco, is no longer alive.
Uplift notes that Thompson said, “A lot of people can’t believe it was 50 years ago. It’s hard for me to believe.” It’s hard to believe how such an unexpected moment can become so historical.
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