James Kennedy Biography
James Kennedy (James Robert Kennedy) was a mentally disabled man whose importance to a South Carolina football team inspired the Hollywood movie “Radio”. He had been a fixture on the sidelines of Hanna football games for more than 50 years. He died on Sunday morning, December 15, 2019, at the age of 73. He earned the nickname “Radio” in the mid-1960s when he began to show up at Hanna’s football field with a transistor radio.
James Kennedy Age
James was 73 years old at the time of his death.
James Kennedy Hanna Athletic
In 1965 Kennedy became unofficial 11th-grade student at the T.L. Hanna High School. He attended football games and eventually led the football team onto the field. Kennedy was dubbed “Radio” because he was rarely seen without his rusty, transistor radio.
“Radio became an inspiration to the players and the town … truly spreading joy. A few years ago, the Salvation Army was struggling during the x-mas season and when Radio learned of it, he braved the bitter cold with Jones, stood outside a Sam’s Club and got hundreds of people to deposit cash in the kettle.”
In 2016 Kennedy was inducted into the T.L. Hanna Athletic Hall of Fame. He was inducted during the halftime show of a Friday night football game.
Kyle Newton, a spokesman for Anderson School District 5, said in a statement Sunday morning; “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 will be missed, but his legacy will live on in the countless lives he touched.”
Sheila Hilton, a former principal at T.L. Hanna High School, wrote a touching article about Kennedy and about the impact he left on the school.
“It would be easy to talk about all the school has done for Radio, but the miraculous thing about this story is what Radio has done 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. What a lesson there is to be learned here. How many lost souls could be saved with a little care and attention?”
James Kennedy Radio Movie
Kennedy inspired the 2003 film “Radio,” starring Cuba Gooding Jr. in the title role. The film focuses on Kennedy’s relationship with Jones, portrayed by Ed Harris. The movie was launched after a story was published by Sports Illustrated. The movie tells the story of friendship and a town’s acceptance of a man with intellectual disabilities and a warm smile.
After his death Gooding in a statement told PEOPLE, “Sometimes God sends us inspiration in the human form… James Robert ‘Radio’ Kennedy was and will always be the wings to that inspiration. I will love and miss him always.”
James Radio Kennedy Death
James died on December 15, 2019 at Hospice of the Upstate in Anderson County. According to T.L. Hanna Yellowjackets news he died just after midnight, surrounded by his family.
James ‘Radio’ Kennedy Dead at 73 https://t.co/8wzCVskp1B
— TMZ (@TMZ) December 15, 2019
James Radio Kennedy Cause of Death
Kennedy’s cause of death has not been revealed yet. His niece told WYFF in Greenville, South Carolina that he had been suffering from health problems. In early December he had been hospitalized as he had been suffering from health issues including pancreatitis. He also had ongoing medical problems associated with diabetes and ongoing kidney problems.
James Radio Kennedy Tributes
“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.
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 existed within him.” Sheila Hilton, a former principal at T.L. Hanna High School, wrote.