James ‘Radio’ Kennedy dead at 73

South Carolina News

James “Radio” Kennedy stands with the T.L. Hanna High School varsity football team behind him just before their game against Fort Mill, Friday, Sept. 19, 2003, in Fort Mill, S.C. (AP Photo/The Herald, Amber M. McCloskey)

ANDERSON, SC (WSAV/AP) – The man who was a fixture on the sidelines of a South Carolina high school’s football games for decades and whose life inspired a Hollywood movie has died.

James “Radio” Kennedy was 73.

T.L. Hanna High School Athletic Director John Cann confirmed Kennedy’s death Sunday morning on the school’s sports website. The cause of death wasn’t immediately released, but prior to his death, Kennedy was hospitalized.

Kennedy, who had developmental disabilities, became famous around South Carolina for his love of the T.L. Hanna High School football team and his regular appearance at games since the 1960s. The school said that when he first showed up on the sidelines of the football field, he was a teenager with a transistor radio seemingly attached to his ear who never learned to read or write.

Sheila Hilton, former T.L. Hanna High School Principal, reflected on Kennedy’s contributions to the school on the school’s sports website as well. She said stories of Kennedy’s legacy could fill the pages of an entire book, “each showing the child-like innocence and loving heart that existed within him,”.

“It was destiny that he arrived on that football field some fifty years ago. He was without a Harvard degree or Pulitzer Prize or professional football contract, but his fame surpassed all of these accolades. And the story is simple: love and compassion can change lives. It has changed his, and, in return, he has changed ours, and we are better people for having known him.”

Sheila Hilton, former T.L. Hanna High School Principal

The 2003 film “Radio,” starring Cuba Gooding Jr. in the title role, focused on Kennedy’s relationship with former football coach Harold Jones. 

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