Touching and Inspirational: Act of Kindness Results in 50 Year Friendship [VIDEO]

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EEW Magazine Special Features // CBN News // Inspiration

Meet Radio.  He’s a bit of a legend in the small town of Anderson, South Carolina.  At 72 years old he’s still in the 11th grade, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

It was 1964, in the heat of August, when JV coaches Harold Jones and Dennis Patterson noticed a young man coming to the practices every day, holding a transistor radio to his ear. 

As providence would have it, Radio and Coach Jones are now the best of friends.

“Every year they take a group picture in the gym of all the seniors that's graduating that year.  He will not get in that group.  He said he knows he would have to leave!” says Coach Jones.

Not only is Radio a student at T.L. Hanna High School. He’s perhaps the most revered member of its football team – the Yellow Jackets – even though he’s never played a second of football.   

Coach Jones says, “I think it was just God's plan that put Radio right down there on that practice field.”

Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. portrayed the role of Radio in the 2003 movie “Radio” which grossed over 50,000,000 in the U.S.

Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. portrayed the role of Radio in the 2003 movie “Radio” which grossed over 50,000,000 in the U.S.

At first, however, it wasn’t easy to win his trust.

The coach recalls, “He started mimicking us coaches and the players.  So we was trying to get him to come closer to us.  We wanted him to get involved.  So we said, ‘Well, let's offer him a Coke maybe, and a hamburger, and maybe we can get him to come.’  And that was the trick.”

They learned he was 18-year-old James Robert Kennedy, nicknamed “Radio” because of his obsession with radios.  In today’s terms, he was born with an intellectual disability, and was unable to learn how to read or write, and could barely speak.  But the coaches and players saw past that, and soon made him one of their own.

He came from a rough neighborhood across town, and lived with his mom, stepdad, and younger brother, who was also intellectually disabled.  Radio loved going into town, perhaps to escape the ridicule and bullying from kids in his own neighborhood.

As time went on, the community at Hanna High soon would come to realize that Radio was a wonderful, giving person, and a lifelong friendship would develop with Coach Jones — something that would eventually be turned into a movie.

In 1996, Sports Illustrated writer Gary Smith penned an article about the friendship between Coach Jones and Radio.  From there, Hollywood director Michael Tollin brought their story to the silver screen in the movie, Radio.

These days, at Hanna High School, you will still find that same 11th grader greeting everyone with a smile and a hug, and cheering on his beloved Yellow Jackets. 

Watch the touching and inspiring story below.