James Kennedy, high school football fixture who inspired 2003 movie 'Radio,' dead at 73

James Kennedy, who inspired the movie "Radio," died on Sunday. He was 73. 

Kennedy was a staple at South Carolina high school T.L. Hanna's football games dating back to the 1960s. John Cann, T.L. Hanna's Athletic Director confirmed Kennedy's death in a statement on the school's sports website.

The statement from the school noted that Kennedy, who was mentally disabled, showed up on the field as a teenager and became a "fixture" on the sidelines at games. First, he was just showing up, then he was mimicking the signals and calling out plays. As he kept showing up, his relationship grew with coaches and teammates. 

Kennedy was best known for loving the team. 

From the school's statement:

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. 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. Because people looked past his disabilities and imperfections, he found a way to make his own unique contribution to the world.

Kyle Newton, a spokesman for Anderson School District 5, commented on the impact Kennedy had on the community.

"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," he told NBC News. "He will be missed, but his legacy will live on in the countless lives he touched."

In the 1960s, Kennedy made regular appearances at games and formed a relationship with the team that gained attention across the state and eventually across the country. He earned his nickname "Radio" because he was often seen holding a radio while walking. 

His story lead to the 2003 film "Radio" in which he was portrayed by Cuba Gooding Jr. 

"He was just a fine, fine man" Harold Jones, the former coach who was featured in the movie, told The Anderson Independent Mail. "We all loved him. We will miss him incredibly."

Our Latest Stories