Ronnie Van Zant

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January 15, 1948 – October 20, 1977

Ronnie Van Zant was the oldest of three musical brothers from Jacksonville, Florida. In high school, Ronnie formed a band with classmates Gary Rossington, Allen Collins, Bob Burns and Larry Junstrom. The band changed names a couple of times before landing on the name Lynyrd Skynyrd – a tounge-in-cheek nod to their gym teacher, Leonard Skinner. Van Zant served as the singer and primary lyricist.

In 1973, Lynyrd Skynyrd released their debut album, (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd), and found immediate success with a string of hits including “Simple Man,” “Gimme Three Steps,” “Tuesday’s Gone” and the all-time classic “Free Bird.” Van Zant became an instant and formidable star. His distinctive voice and powerful stage presence helped catapult Skynyrd to stardom as one of the biggest acts of the 1970s. Follow up hits like “Sweet Home Alabama” and “What’s Your Name” cemented their place as the top Southern-Rock band in the world.

On October 20, 1977, the plane carrying the band’s entire entourage ran out of fuel en route to Baton Rouge, Louisiana and crashed into a swamp outside of Gillsburg, Mississippi. Six of the 26 people on board perished, including guitarist, Steve Gaines, his sister, Cassie (who was a backup singer for the group), the pilots, the band’s road manager…and Ronnie Van Zant. Many of the other passengers were seriously injured. Friends and family later mentioned that Ronnie was often prescient about his death saying routinely that he “wouldn’t live to 30.” Ronnie Van Zant was 29 when he died.

Ronnie, Steve and Cassie were all buried at Jacksonville Memory Gardens, which became a bit of a pilgrimage site for fans. But after their graves were desecrated and vandalized in 2000, Ronnie’s family moved him to nearby Riverside Memorial Park.

Burial

Riverside Memorial Park – Jacksonville, FL

Previous burial site #2 in Riverside, at the front of the park between his parents and his daughter’s future plot.

Previous burial site #1 at Jacksonville Memory Gardens.

Specific Location

In 2022, Ronnie was moved once again to a plot further back in the park. Enter the gates to the left of the Chapel, then turn right (at Billy Powell) and follow the road around until you reach a garden on your right that’s surrounded by a brick wall. Ronnie now rests on the other side of this garden overlooking the nearby small lake.

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