James "Radio" Kennedy, Inspiration for Cuba Gooding Jr. Film, Dies at 73

Cuba Gooding Jr. and Ed Harris in 'Radio' — Photofest — H 2019

An honorary 11th-grader at T.L. Hanna High School, he got his nickname because of the transistor radio he kept with him at all times.

James "Radio" Kennedy, the former student at Anderson, South Carolina's T.L. Hanna High School who served as the inspiration for the Cuba Gooding Jr. starrer Radio, has died. He was 73. 

Kennedy died Sunday morning after facing health issues in recent years. Former T.L. Hanna High School football coach Harold Jones — portrayed by Ed Harris in the 2003 film — confirmed the news to the Anderson Independent Mail. T.L. Hanna High School athletic director John Cann also confirmed Kennedy's death on the school's sports website.

"Please keep his family in your prayers in this difficult time," Cann said in the statement.

The cause of death wasn't immediately released.

Kennedy, who had intellectual disabilities, was an honorary 11th-grader at T.L. Hanna High School who became a prominent figure in its football program. He got his nickname because of the transistor radio he kept with him at all times and was a frequent attendee at Hanna games in the 1960s.

"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," Kyle Newton, a spokesman for Anderson School District 5, said Sunday in a statement. "He will be missed, but his legacy will live on in the countless lives he touched." 

Radio centers on Kennedy's relationship with Jones. Gooding and supporting actress Alfre Woodard both earned NAACP Image Awards for their performances in the film.

Kennedy continued to volunteer regularly and led the football team onto the field twice this season with the help of a golf cart. According to WYFF News 4, he was inducted into the T.L. Hanna Athletic Hall of Fame in 2016.

McDougald Funeral Services said a memorial service for Kennedy is scheduled for Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Civic Center of Anderson.