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Leonard Skinner: The Man Behind the Name

by Legacy Staff

Leonard Skinner died yesterday at age 77. If his name sounds familiar but you can’t quite place it, try substituting the vowels with the letter “y”…

His name has become part of rock mythology, a fact he was never completely at ease with but later begrudgingly accepted.

The story originates in the late 1960s. Forby Leonard Skinner, a strict disciplinarian who sported a crewcut you could set your watch to, was then a gym teacher at Robert E. Lee High School in Jacksonville, Florida. One day he sent five of his students to the principal’s office because their hair was too long.


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

Some of those kids would go on to form one of Southern rock’s seminal acts, immortalizing Skinner by naming their band “Lynyrd Skynyrd” in mocking tribute. He may not have liked it much, but was a good sport. He allowed the band to use a photo of a sign for his realty business on one of their album’s inner sleeves – resulting in lots of 3 a.m. calls from Skynyrd fans – and even became friends with some of the band members. He once came onstage and introduced the band when they played their hometown of Jacksonville, and his family says they’ve met a lot of great people over the years thanks to the Skinner-Skynyrd connection.

But you’d never catch him yelling out “Freebird” at one of their concerts. “I don’t like rock-n-roll music,” he said.

Skinner, who suffered from Alzheimer’s in his later years, died Sept. 20, 2010.

Here’s Skinner telling his version of the story.

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