Leonard Skinner dies at 77; gym teacher was namesake of rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd


Leonard Skinner, a Florida high school gym teacher and coach who was the inspiration for the name of the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, has died. He was 77.

Skinner died Monday at St. Catherine Laboure Manor nursing home in Jacksonville, Fla., his daughter Susie Moore told the Associated Press. He had Alzheimer’s disease.

Skinner earned a place in rock history in the late 1960s at Robert E. Lee High School in Jacksonville after he sent some students to the principal’s office because of the length of their hair. The students included at least one future member of Lynyrd Skynyrd.

“It was against school rules,” he told the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville in 2009. “I don’t particularly like long hair on men, but again, it wasn’t my rule.”

Moore said her father was a disciplinarian. “There was right and there was wrong and you’d better not deviate,” she said in 2009.

He was born Forby Leonard Skinner on Jan. 11, 1933, in Jacksonville and graduated from Lee High. According to the Times-Union, he attended what is now Jacksonville University before serving in the Army and graduated from Florida State University in 1957.

Skinner was no fan of the band’s music but stayed connected with the band members through the years. A photo of a sign for his realty business was on the inside cover of a Lynyrd Skynyrd album and he introduced the band before a concert in Jacksonville.

The band went by several names, including One Percent, before settling on their sarcastic tribute to Skinner. They had such 1970s hits as “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Free Bird.” Three band members, including lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, were killed in a 1977 plane crash. A version of the band continues to perform.

“They were good, talented hardworking boys,” Skinner said in 2009. “They worked hard, lived hard and boozed hard.”

In addition to his daughter, Skinner’s survivors include his wife, Rosemary; a son, Leonard; and two grandchildren.