James "Radio" Kennedy dealt with numerous health issues this year before his passing on Sunday morning. The football legend was hospitalized back in August to be treated for the issues that ultimately led to his death. Kennedy's passing was reportedly a result of pancreatitis, diabetes and kidney issues.
Kennedy is a beloved figure in Anderson County, South Carolina, where he has been a fixture of T.L. Hanna High School football for decades. He was the subject of the 2003 movie Radio, where he was played by Cuba Gooding, Jr.
Kennedy's passing was reportedly by local outlets such as NBC News affiliate WYFF News 4, which have been following his health for months now. Back in August, the station ran a story about Kennedy's brief hospitalization at the time.
According to the outlet, Kennedy was hospitalized on Friday, Aug. 9 due to "fluid retention and other issues related to diabetes," but he was released on Monday and sent home to recover.
Kennedy was hospitalized again earlier this month, according to his niece, Jackie Kennedy. She served as his caregiver up until his passing this weekend. On Saturday afternoon, she said, he was taken to Hospice of the Upstate, where he passed away less than 24 hours later.
Kennedy is a local legend, thanks in large part to the semi-biographical movie about his life. He was walking by the school when he befriended then-football coach Harold Jones — played by Ed Harris in the movie — and learned to communicate more effectively through the hand signs and commands used in the game.
"At that time, he was a teenager, with a transistor radio seemingly attached to his ear, who could barely speak and had never learned to read or write. He was nicknamed Radio by the coaches and players," wrote former T.L. Hanna High Principal Sheila Hilton of Kennedy. "He became a fixture at football practices, standing passively and watching, until one day when he began to mimic the coaches' signals and tried his hand at yelling out commands. At that point, he could have been labeled a distraction and sent away. But he was not."
"The coaches embraced him, and as coaches came and went, someone would always take over in caring for him," she went on.
In the years since, Kennedy has stayed close to T.L. Hanna High School football, even earning a spot in the school's football hall of fame in 2016. Social media users have been posting their favorite memories of Kennedy online in tribute to his passing this weekend.