James “Radio” Kennedy just kinda showed up one day, and passively watched the local high school football team practicing. He could barely speak, but always had a transistor radio held up to his ear. And so the coaches and players started referring to him as “Radio.”
As time went on, he began to mimic the coaches on the sidelines, gesturing and yelling at the players. Instead of kicking him out of the practice, Coach Jones befriended him, and so began a story so uplifting it garnered national attention. A feature in Sports Illustrated led to a Hollywood movie starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. and other big-name actors. It was then that Radio went from a kind of local infamy to national celebrity, but you wouldn’t know it by just watching him. He’s much more worried about the rain cancelling that week’s game, or where his next soda will come from (or a hot dog or a sandwich or a popcorn). He’s actually “enrolled” at TL Hanna, and perpetually in the 11th grade (because once when he proclaimed himself a senior, he was told he’d have to graduate soon, and ever since then has strictly maintained his Junior status). He had a statue erected in his honor, he was inducted into the TL Hanna Hall of Fame in 2016, and remains a fixture on campus even today, at the age of 71.
TL Hanna High School, the City of Anderson, the Upstate, and indeed the whole state of South Carolina are all fortunate to be a part of Radio’s story. He serves as a perfect reminder of how precious each and every life is, no matter how it may seem at first.
Please join us in congratulating this 2019 Upstate Black History Maker!