James Kennedy, man who inspired 'Radio' movie, dies at 73

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James "Radio" Kennedy (Photo: Bruce Ollis via WLOS)

ANDERSON, S.C. (WCIV) -- James "Radio" Kennedy, a fixture of South Carolina high school football whose story inspired a 2003 feature film, has died. He was 73.

Kennedy passed early Sunday morning in hospice care at a facility in Anderson County, according to a report from WYFF.

“Please keep his family in your prayers in this difficult time,” T.L. Hanna High School Athletic Director John Cann said in a statement.

A mentally handicapped man, "Radio" became an honorary member of the T.L. Hanna High School football team staff in the 1960s, after coaches and players noticed him always showing up to watch games and practices.

Kennedy's "Radio" nickname came from the fact he seemed to always have a transistor radio with him as he made his way around the city of Anderson.

"Generations of Hanna students and faculty have had an opportunity to know Radio," former TL Hanna principal Sheila Hilton wrote for the Anderson School District 5's web page. "Everyone has a story to tell, some of them priceless. His eating a cooler full of sandwiches that had been made for the team and stored safely on the bus; his pass-kick-and-throw half-time shows; his permanent status as a junior, with no threat of graduation; and his astounding ability to name the mascot of any team in the state. The stories could fill the pages of a lengthy book, each showing the child-like innocence and loving heart that exists within him."

Radio's unique relationship with T.L. Hanna and longtime football coach Harold Jones first came into the national spotlight through a 1996 Sports Illustrated feature story.

Then, in 2003, Hollywood came calling, retelling Kennedy and Jones' story for the big screen in "Radio," starring Cuba Gooding Jr. and Ed Harris.

McDougald Funeral Services said a memorial service for Kennedy is scheduled for Dec. 21 at the Civic Center of Anderson.