REMEMBERING RADIO: Send your condolences, memories of the Upstate legend here

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ANDERSON, S.C. (WSPA) – James Kennedy, also lovingly known as “Radio” has died at age 73.

Radio passed away on Sunday morning, according to McDougald Funeral Home in Anderson.

Many knew Kennedy as the inspiration for the Hollywood movie “Radio,” which was based on his life.

James Robert “Radio” Kennedy walks on the red carpet in his hometown as he arrives for a screening of the movie “Radio,” which is based on his life, Thursday, Oct. 23, 2003, in Anderson, S.C. (AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)

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

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.”

“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,” Anderson School District 5 Spokesperson Kyle Newton said. “He will be missed, but his legacy will live on in the countless lives he touched.” 

Prior to his death, Kennedy had been hospitalized.

McDougald Funeral Home announced a viewing will be held at T.L. Hanna from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on December 20. The funeral service is the following day at the Civic Center of Anderson at 2 p.m.

Back in October 2016, our own Christine Scarpelli got to meet up with “Radio” for our Daybreak Game of the Week. Take a look below:

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