Leonard Skinner Dies: Inspiration for Lynyrd Skynyrd
Basketball Coach, Gym Teacher, and the Name Behind Rock Group Lynyrd Skynyrd Has Died at the Age of 77
Leonard Skinner died in his sleep on Monday morning, as confirmed to jacksonville.com by his son, also called Leonard Skinner. His father had been suffering from Alzheimer's.
His son said that his dad had eaten a bowl of ice cream just after midnight, a snack he apparently loved, and then died in his sleep and was found at 2:30am. He was living in the St. Catherine Laboure Manor nursing home in Riverside.
Mr. Skinner never asked to become part of rock 'n roll lore. He didn’t even like rock 'n roll. He was just a by-the-book gym teacher at Robert E. Lee High School, his alma mater, who, in the late 1960s, sent some students to the principal’s office because their hair was too long.
One of those was Gary Rossington who later became the guitarist for a band who called themselves Lynyrd Skynyrd in somewhat of a tribute. Rossington is the only original member of the band still with them today. Three of the original members and one crew member died in an airplane crash in 1977.
Leonard Skinner always maintained that he was just following the rules as students were not allowed to have long hair, but he wanted people to know it wasn't his rule and he did not kick them out of school.
It wasn't until his son was listening to the band's debut album in 1973 that he found out about the band with a twist to his name, although the younger Skinner remembers his dad was not impressed, asking him 'what kind of noise are you listening to?'
After the news got out that he was the inspiration for the band, the gym teacher was a local celebrity and he even met some members when they came to The Still on San Juan Avenue.
He also allowed the band to use a photo of his Leonard Skinner Realty sign for the inside of their third album. For years, fans would call the phone number on the sign to reach the real Leonard Skinner. Their inevitable reaction, said Mr. Skinner: “Far out.”
His children said their father met a lot of people due to his unlikely fame. Daughter Susie Moore said:
“That in itself really brought a lot of wonderful people in our family’s lives, simply because they were Lynyrd Skynyrd fans, and they wanted to meet Dad. They loved him. They’re part of our extended family now.”
It is thought a funeral will take place on Friday and details will be announced soon.