James “Radio” Kennedy—the man who inspired the movie “Radio,” starring Cuba Gooding, Jr.—has died. He was 73 years old.
Kennedy’s niece and caregiver, Jackie Kennedy, confirmed the sad news to WYFF News 4 Sunday morning (Dec. 15). Jackie said her uncle was taken to Hospice of the Upstate in Anderson County Saturday afternoon, and he passed away early Sunday morning.
Kennedy was a regular fixture on the sidelines of T.L. Hanna High School in Anderson, South Carolina for more than 50 years after he started showing up at the games as a teenager and unofficial 11th grader in the mid-1960s.
Explaining how he got his nickname, Former T.L. Hanna High Principal Sheila Hilton wrote a few years ago:
“At that time, he was a teenager, with a transistor radio seemingly attached to his ear, who could barely speak and had never learned to read or write. He was nicknamed Radio by the coaches and players.
“He became a fixture at football practices, standing passively and watching, until one day when he began to mimic the coaches’ signals and tried his hand at yelling out commands.
“At that point, he could have been labeled a distraction and sent away. But he was not. The coaches embraced him, and as coaches came and went, someone would always take over in caring for him.”
In 1964, Radio was befriended by former T.L. Hanna football coach Harold Jones, and the story of their relationship would later become the plot for the 2003 film “Radio.”
Jones said Radio—who was inducted into the T.L. Hanna Athletic Hall of Fame in 2016—was previously hospitalized in early December to be treated for pancreatitis, along with ongoing diabetes and kidney issues.