Documentary about Lynyrd Skynyrd's Jacksonville roots makes debut

October marked 40 years since some band members were killed in plane crash

By Ethan Calloway - Anchor/reporter, Troy Blevins

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - October marked 40 years since some members of the legendary local band Lynyrd Skynyrd were killed in a plane crash. A new documentary about the band's roots on Jacksonville's Westside made its debut Saturday.

For many there, it was a time to reflect on the band's local impact.

At the Sun-Ray Cinema in Jacksonville's 5 Points neighborhood, it's an opportunity to honor some of the city's most famous natives, and remember the tragedy that's part of their story.

"My neck was broken in several places, had a lot of reconstructive surgeries, so it's been a lot since then," Lynyrd Skynyrd backup singer Leslie Hawkins-Johns said. "I have a lot of health problems. You know, you fall out of the sky, it doesn't all go back like it was."

Hawkins-Johns was one of the survivors of the plane crash that killed six people. The plane ran out of fuel and crashed in Mississippi in 1977.

News4Jax anchor Tom Wills was the only local reporter to travel to the scene. He was there Saturday to see the documentary.

"I think it's going to be emotional for a lot of people because it really gets into the origins of the band, and we're going to see a lot of pictures and video that we've never seen before," Wills said.

The film is part of the Sleeping Giant Film Festival and delves into the history of Jacksonville's hometown band.

Hawkins-Johns said the documentary is a perfect way to honor those who were lost.

"People do remember, and that's great. I'm glad that Ronny's memory is still alive. He was a great guy and he deserves it," Hawkins-Johns said. "They worked hard and he worked hard, and they deserve this."

The documentary's showing Sunday night is already sold out.

The band has just started the first leg of a 30-city farewell tour. Jacksonville is not included yet, but the band's manager said something special is in the works for local fans.

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