Rocco Morabito dies at 88; won Pulitzer Prize for photo


Photographer Rocco Morabito, whose shot of a utility worker saving the life a fellow lineman who had been shocked by a high-voltage wire won a Pulitzer Prize in 1968, died Sunday. He was 88.

Morabito’s health had been declining and he was in hospice care, the Florida Times-Union reported.

His dramatic photograph, tagged “Kiss of Life” by a Jacksonville Journal copy editor, appeared in newspapers around the world in 1967. The photo showed an apprentice electrical lineman, R.G. Champion, who had come into contact with a 4,160-volt line, being resuscitated by a fellow lineman, J.D. Thompson, as he dangled from the top of the pole. Champion lived through the ordeal and died of heart failure in 2002. Thompson is still living.


Morabito’s Pulitzer Prize was for spot news photography, the first Pulitzer given in that category.

“He was a brilliant, instinctive photographer,” said Charlie Patton, a Times-Union staff writer who worked with Morabito at the Journal in the late 1970s.

Morabito was born in Port Chester, N.Y., on Nov. 2, 1920. He moved to Florida when he was 5, and by age 10 he was working as a newsboy, selling papers for the Journal.

He served in the Army Air Forces during World War II as a ball-turret gunner on a B-17.

After the war, he returned to the Journal and started his photography career shooting sporting events for the paper.

His famous photo was taken as he was returning from covering a railroad strike. He used his car radio to tell the paper to call an ambulance, and after he got the shot he radioed again to tell the paper, which was nearing its deadline: “You may want to wait for this. I think I’ve got a pretty good one.”

Morabito worked for the Journal for 42 years, 33 of them as a photographer, until retiring in 1982.

Information on survivors was not immediately available.