By Rob Felt
When sculptor Andy Davis rented the movie "Radio" to watch with his family at their McDonough home last month, he had no idea that it would lead him to donate his services and work on a half-year project.
"It affected me like it did anybody else. As an artist I knew I could do something," Davis said.
The movie chronicles the life of James Kennedy, a mentally handicapped man, who was a social outcast in Anderson, South Carolina until a football coach befriended him and taught the town to accept one of its most special residents. Kennedy was nicknamed Radio due to his affinity for collecting and carrying portable radios with him wherever he went.
Coach Harold Jones is responsible for Radio's transformation. At the time he first made contact with Radio, the young man was leery of people and hid outside the football team's practice field watching from the shadows. Today Radio is known by most of his hometown and triumphantly leads the football team onto the field before every game.
Davis, a sculptor who earns his living primarily through commissioned work, was moved by the story and wanted to get involved. He did some research on the Internet and contacted T.L. Hanna High School, which Radio has attended as an unofficial student and team manager for 25 years.
After early talks went well, Davis constructed a small model from photos on the Internet of what the final sculpture could look like. The model has Radio waving happily, wearing his football letter jacket and holding a small portable radio.
Davis took the model to South Carolina to get some feedback. "When I showed it to him he said ?That's Radio!'" Davis recalled.
After taking some more accurate measurements of Radio's face and body to make the final life-size bronze sculpture as realistic as possible, Davis returned home to begin working on the final project.
"I'm honored to do the sculpture," Davis said. He has been touched by the generosity of the school system and Radio's unflinching positive attitude despite his rough upbringing. "That's why we love people like Radio so much, we see the good in them. They are selfless human beings," Davis said.
T.L. Hanna high school and its now retired coach Harold Jones are excited about having a statue to their number one fan cast in bronze. "He's an icon, it's a great honor," Jones said.
If donations continue as anticipated, the statue will be in place for the high school's October 1st homecoming game. "In 100 years from now the sculpture will serve as a historical marker (that the school system helped out)," Davis said.
Coach Jones, who remains Radio's closest friend, has been busy going to movie openings, making appearances and talking to the press with Radio since the film's debut. "He likes the attention, but he's the same old Radio. He hasn't changed a lick," Jones said.
For information on donating to the Radio Sculpture Fund contact Heritage Bank in McDonough at 770-898-0304.