Every time you hear "Sweet Home Alabama," you have to think of this fellow! And now, please send him off with a chorus of "Free Bird." This is from the New York TIMES:
Leonard Skinner, Namesake of Rock Band, Dies
Leonard Skinner, arguably the most influential high school gym teacher in American popular culture, whose enforcement of a draconian classroom policy against long hair inspired some of his students to name their Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, has died, The Florida Times-Union reported.
Mr. Skinner was 77 and living in a nursing home in Riverside, Fla. A cause of death was not immediately provided but his son, also named Leonard Skinner, told The Times-Union that his father had Alzheimer’s disease.
The elder Mr. Skinner, born Forby Leonard Skinner, was a gym teacher at Robert E. Lee High School in Jacksonville in the 1960s. His students included Ronnie Van Zant, a founder and lead vocalist of a band known variously as the Noble Five and My Backyard. Seeking a new name the group recalled Mr. Skinner, who was said to have sent Mr. Van Zant and his band mates to the principal’s office for wearing their hair too long in his class. In a mocking tribute, the fledgling band changed its name to Leonard Skinnerd and then, more memorably, to Lynyrd Skynyrd.
In a previous interview with The Times-Union, Mr. Skinner seemed not to be bothered by his association with Lynyrd Skynyrd, whose hits include “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Gimme Three Steps” and, of course, “Free Bird.”
“They were good, talented, hard-working boys,” Mr. Skinner said. “They worked hard, lived hard and boozed hard.”
His son told The Times-Union: “I think he kind of ate it up. He didn’t like it at first, he had mixed emotions later, but I think he kind of liked it eventually.”