James “Radio” Kennedy, a South Carolina high school football legend and the main subject of the 2003 film Radio, has reportedly passed away.
According to his niece and caregiver, Jackie Kennedy, the 73-year-old was taken to Hospice of the Upstate in Anderson County Saturday afternoon (December 14) where he died early Sunday morning.
Kennedy was associated with the T.L. Hanna high school football program for decades beginning in the mid-1960s. According to former T.L. Hanna principal Sheila Hilton, he began observing practices when 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,” Hilton continued, according to WYFF 4. “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.”
During his early years around the program, former T.L. Hanna football coach Harold Jones befriended Radio. That friendship would be portrayed in the 2003 film Radio with Kennedy portrayed by Cuba Gooding Jr.
In early December, WYFF 4 reports that Kennedy was hospitalized and treated for pancreatitis and other ongoing diabetes and kidney issues. The cause of his death is not clear.
Our thoughts go out to James “Radio” Kennedy’s family and friends during this most difficult time.