Leonard Skinner, the no-nonsense basketball coach and gym teacher at Jacksonville, Florida's Robert E. Lee High School in the 1960s, whose name is forever linked with legendary rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, passed away early Monday morning at 77 years old.
Born Forby Leonard Skinner, the gym teacher infamously enforced the school's draconian dress code on his students, including Lynyrd Skynyrd founder and late vocalist Ronnie Van Zant. Writes local paper The Florida-Times Union, "The story goes this way: The band named itself in a smart-aleck tribute to the basketball coach and gym teacher at Robert E. Lee High School, the tough guy who sent some of the musicians to the assistant principal's office because their hair was too long - it touched their collars in the back."
Upon hearing the news of the passing of his band's namesake, Skynyrd guitarist Gary Rossington has written on the band's site, "Coach Skinner had such a profound impact on our youth that ultimately led us to naming the band, which you know as Lynyrd Skynyrd, after him. Looking back, I cannot imagine it any other way. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time."