James Kennedy, the inspiration for the hit 2003 movie “Radio,” died yesterday in South Carolina after being admitted to hospice. He was 73.
The movie starring Cuba Gooding Jr. told the story of Kennedy’s friendship with South Carolina high school football coach Harold Jones.
“He will be truly missed,” Jones said. “He is truly an icon.”
Jones, who coached at Hanna High in Anderson, said Radio was a part of his family, having grown up with his children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren.
Kennedy had a number of health scares in 2018, requiring multiple hospital admissions.
“At that time, 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,” former Hanna High principal Sheila Hilton once wrote. “He was nicknamed Radio by the coaches and players.”
“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,” Hilton said. “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.”