James “Radio” Kennedy, who inspired the Hollywood blockbuster Radio starring Cuba Gooding Jr., has died at the age of 73.
Kennedy was a staple at South Carolina high school football games over a decade. His death as confirmed by T.L. Hanna High School Athletic Director John Cann, on the school website. A cause of death as not disclosed in the announcement.
“It would be easy to talk about all the school did for Radio, but the miraculous thing about this story is what Radio did for the school,” Cann wrote. “It is perhaps a lesson of which all of us need to be reminded. Because he was embraced by caring people, he was stimulated to learn. Because he was loved, he found his place in the world.”
The San Diego Tribune notes Kennedy was known for his affection toward T.L. Hanna High School and his presence around their games dating as far back as to the 1960s.
“He was just a fine, fine man,” former T.L. Hanna football coach Harold Jones told The Independent Mail. “We all loved him. We will miss him incredibly.”
Kennedy was an unofficial 11th-grader at the school, looking to never leave like the graduating classes, becoming a staple of the school.
The 2003 film, Radio, detailed Kennedy’s interaction with Coach Jones, played by Ed Harris. The decades of Kennedy’s tenure were compacted into a single football season but would be seen to be accurate of the relationship between the two and how the city embraces a man with developmental disabilities.
“The other 80% of the people who never met him didn’t see, but they’d have loved that about him, too,” said Josh Allen, the great-nephew of Kennedy.
Radio received his nickname because he always was in possession of a transistor radio. He was described by area residents as a kind man who did not talk much unless it was about sports.
“Radio was the heart and soul of T.L. Hanna for over 50 years, and the impact he made in our community can’t be overstated,” said Kyle Newton, a spokesman for Anderson School District 5 in a statement. “He will be missed, but his legacy will live on in the countless lives he touched.”