By Jeff Lagrone
Graduate students at Florida State University are producing a documentary on Lander University Professor of Sociology Dr. Daniel Harrison and his book, “Making Sense of Marshall Ledbetter: The Dark Side of Political Protest.”
An FSU dropout, Ledbetter made international news in 1991 by breaking into and occupying the Florida State capitol, from which he issued a bizarre list of demands, including 666 doughnuts for the police. He refused to give himself up until his demands were read live on CNN.
“It should be noted that this came on the end of a 23-day psychedelic mushroom binge,” Harrison said. “He had been in an alternate reality for a significant period of time.”
Following the standoff, Ledbetter was arrested, found incompetent to stand trial and committed to Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee. He was later released into the custody of his father, in whose camera shop he worked before dying of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 2003.
Harrison’s book, published in 2014 by the University Press of Florida, traces Ledbetter’s life from his upbringing in a conservative household in Auburndale, Florida to his enrollment in 1987 at FSU, where he “fell in with a countercultural crowd. He kind of had a Gestalt shift. At some point, he went off the rails.”
Harrison said that Ledbetter was “a very smart guy. His IQ was off the charts. He was one of these very brilliant people who in many respects might have been too smart for his own good.”
The idea of producing a documentary on Harrison and his book came about as the result of a tip that FSU graduate student Francisco Nunez received through the social media platform Reddit.
“There was this one person who said, ‘look into Marshall Ledbetter,’” said Nunez, who is pursuing a master’s degree in public interest media at FSU. “I started doing research and I thought, ‘that’s a story.’”
“It’s such a crazy tale,” Harrison said.
Copies of Harrison’s book can be purchased from Amazon and the University Press of Florida.