Leonard Skinner, Inspiration for Band Name, Dies in Florida

Leonard Skinner, the high school gym teacher who inspired Lynyrd Skynyrd’s band name, died Monday (Sept. 20) at a nursing home in Riverside, Fla., at age 77. In recent years, he had battled Alzheimer’s disease. While a gym teacher and basketball coach during the ’60s at Robert E. Lee High School in Jacksonville, Fla., Skinner had a reputation for sending male students to the principal’s office because their hair was too long. Those male students included future Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members Ronnie Van Zant and Gary Rossington, who named their band Lynyrd Skynyrd as a sarcastic tribute. Van Zant was one of several band members who died in a 1977 plane crash, but several of the survivors apparently became friends with Skinner in later years.