James ‘Radio’ Kennedy passes away, family says

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James Robert “Radio” Kennedy hugs T.L. Hanna teacher Vinnie Dill after he arrived at a screening of the movie “Radio,” based on his lief, Thursday, Oct. 23, 2003, in Anderson, S.C. (AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)

ANDERSON COUNTY, S.C. (WFLA/WSPA/WJBF) — James “Radio” Kennedy, a prominent figure of a South Carolina high school football program, has passed away, according to a news outlet in the area.

WYFF News 4 said Kennedy’s niece and caregiver Jackie Kennedy said Radio, 75, was taken to the hospital Saturday afternoon. He passed away early Sunday morning.

For decades, he’d been a part of the football program at T.L. Hanna High School, according to WSPA.

The mentally challenged man showed up on the football field in the mid-1960’s as a teenager and was an integral part of the school ever since.

With a transistor radio seemingly attached to his ear, coaches and players nicknamed him “Radio.”

He could barely speak and had never learned to read or write. Coach Harold Jones took him under his wing and Radio soon became a fixture at football practices.

“Generations of Hanna students and faculty had an opportunity to know Radio. 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,” Former T.L. Hanna Principal Sheila Hilton wrote. “The stories could fill the pages of a lengthy book, each showing the child-like innocence and loving heart that existed within him.”

“The community, they just love Radio,” coach Harold Jones previously told WSPA, “I mean, everybody loves Radio.”

Hilton also noted that in the small town of Anderson, Sports Illustrated, Readers’ Digest, ESPN, CBS News, and even Hollywood have told Radio’s story, and he is “arguably the most famous person to come out of Anderson.”

Prior to his death, Kennedy had been hospitalized.

Services will be arranged by McDougald Funeral Home.

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