James (Radio) Kennedy, the subject of a 1996 SI story and of the current motion picture Radio, from his house at 5:30 a.m. last Saturday as fire engulfed his bedroom. Radio, the mentally challenged 57-year-old who has attended T.L. Hanna High in Anderson, S.C., for nearly 40 years while serving as the football team's assistant coach, trainer, manager, cheerleader and one-man halftime show, awoke before dawn with flames racing up the wall. His shouts awoke his brother and roommate, Cool Rock, who's afflicted with the same mental defect as Radio, along with his older brother and caretaker, Walter, and Walter's wife, Pat. Everyone got out uninjured, but the blaze, believed to have been caused by a faulty breaker box on the wall outside Radio's room, gutted most of the house.
Ten days earlier Radio had stepped out of a limousine in a tuxedo and wept in joy on the red carpet in front of a theater complex in Anderson as hundreds of townspeople chanted his name at the local premiere of his movie—a more rousing reception than even those given to Cuba Gooding Jr. and Ed Harris, the stars who portray Radio and former T.L. Hanna football coach Harold Jones, respectively. On Saturday, Radio sobbed again as the home he has lived in for almost 40 years was destroyed. Lost were souvenirs from the movie, decades' worth of school letters he has earned from the Hanna football, basketball and track teams, and untold numbers of radios, which locals have bequeathed the man who once roamed the town with an old transistor pressed to his ear.
A Radio Fire Relief Fund was set up immediately at the Bank of Anderson, 201 East Greenville Street, Anderson, S.C., 29621, to help the family relocate or build a new home.