The inspiration behind the Cuba Gooding Jr.-starring Radio, James Kennedy, has passed away at the age of 73.
Kennedy's caregiver and niece, Jackie Kennedy, confirmed his death to the local NBC affiliate. T.L. Hanna High School's former head football coach and Kennedy's close friend, Harold Jones, told TMZ that he "was just a fine man. We all loved him. We will miss him incredibly." The school's ex-principal, Sheila Hilton, also released a statement regarding his passing.
"Generations of Hanna students and faculty have had an opportunity to know Radio," Hilton said. "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. The stories could fill the pages of a lengthy book, each showing the child-like innocence and loving heart that exists within him."
Kennedy was given the nickname "Radio" because he was rarely seen around his hometown of Anderson, South Carolina without his transistor radio. He became an honorary member of the football staff in the late-1960 when players and coaches noticed Kennedy hanging around the practices and showing up to every game. Kennedy was also given the status as an eleventh grader at T.L. Hanna High School, creating the special relationship between Radio and Jones.
Their connection became the subject of a 1996 Sports Illustrated article, which grew into the inspiration for the 2003 film, Radio.
Jones said that Radio had been having trouble with his diabetes and he was hospitalized earlier this month for a bout with pancreatitis. Kennedy also had ongoing kidney issues. According to his niece, Radio was taken to hospice on Saturday afternoon and died Sunday morning.