Pat Duggins

News Director

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.  If his name or voice is familiar, it could be his twenty five years covering the U.S. space program, including fourteen years on NPR.  Pat’s NASA experience began with the explosion of Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986, and includes 103 missions.  Many NPR listeners recall Pat’s commentary during Weekend Edition Saturday on February 1, 2003 when Shuttle Columbia broke apart and burned up during re-entry.  His expertise was utilized during three hours of live and unscripted coverage with NPR’s Scott Simon.  Pat later wrote two books about NASA, Final Countdown: NASA and the End of the Space Shuttle Program and Trailblazing Mars, both of which have been released as audio books.  Pat has also lectured about the future of the space program at Harvard, and writes about international space efforts for "Modern Weekly" magazine in Shanghai, China.

Duggins experience goes beyond NASA.  He led the APR news team on a year long investigation of rural health in Alabama, which was recognized with the 50th annual "Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for Radio." The team was honored alongisde The New York Times, the Washington Post, ABC-TV, and PBS FRONTLINE. Duggins and the team also covered the 2011 Alabama Tornado outbreak with dawn to dusk rescue and recovery updates. The news crew also provided national and international coverage for the BBC in London, MSNBC, CBC in Canada, and Australia Broadcasting in Sydney and Melbourne.  His efforts, and those of the APR news team, were recognized with the first two of three National Sigma Delta Chi awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. The Radio Television Digital News Association also honored Pat and the team with a national Edward R. Murrow Award for overall excellence. The Alabama Associated Press also recognized APR as the "Most Outstanding News Organization" in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017. And, Duggins' news series on the long-term impact of the Gulf oil spill won a national PRNDI award for best series from the Public Radio News Directors' Association, and a regional Murrow. His documentary "Civil Rights Radio," on the 1963 "children's march" in Birmingham was honored with the international "Silver Radio Award" from the New York Festivals radio competition, and with a "Gabriel Award" from the Catholic Church. 

Pat’s work isn’t limited to radio, with regular appearances on TV.  He also conducts interview/profile segments for "Alabama, Inc." a new University of Alabama TV series on business on airs statewide on Alabama Public Television. Pat also co-hosted “Your Vote Counts,” a program featuring college-age voters who critiqued the final debate between Robert Bentley and Ron Sparks in the 2011 race for Alabama Governor. 

Since his arrival at APR, Pat and the team have won more than one hundred awards for excellence in journalism. Duggins is also the recipient of a Suncoast Regional Emmy.

Ways to Connect

Tropical storm Michael has formed just east of the Yucatan Peninsula. Southwesterly wind shear is impacting the developing storm causing deep thunderstorm activity. Despite the wind shear, forecasters were expecting this system to become tropical storm “Michael” before day's end. Tropical storm warnings are flying for western Cuba and the tourist spots of Tulum and Cozumel along Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.

Anti-smoking advocates say they hope to strengthen smoking restrictions across northwest Alabama after Sheffield passed a tighter ordinance. However, restaurant owners say the city is hurting their businesses and smokers are urging a boycott of Sheffield. The city ordinance banning smoking in public spaces begins later this month. The group Smoke Free Shoals told the Times Daily that it hopes to get Florence, Muscle Shoals and Tuscumbia to follow Sheffield's move. However, officials in Florence and Tuscumbia say they're uninterested in changes.

Alabama's Democratic candidate for attorney general wants the state Ethics Commission to review campaign contributions to his opponent. At issue is $735,000 in Attorney General Steve Marshall’s war chest. Joe Siegelman believes the money from the Republican Attorney General Association violates the state ban on transfers between political action committees. Marshall and RAGA maintained the contributions are legal.

Public health and corrections officials are responding to an illness outbreak at an Alabama prison that left one inmate dead. The Alabama Department of Public Health said Friday that here has been a pneumococcal disease outbreak at the Ventress Correctional Facility in Barbour County. Three inmates were hospitalized and one inmate died after developing meningitis. Health officials says the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria can cause illnesses ranging from ear and sinus infections to pneumonia and meningitis.

Alabama's Mobile County is confirming its twelfth case of West Nile virus. The county's health department reported its first case was reported in August. The health department says mosquito activity peaks at dusk and dawn. Officials said the best ways to prevent bites are to wear long pants and shirts, use repellent, and avoid standing water. Humans with the virus or other mosquito-borne diseases often have symptoms of high fever, severe headache, nausea, stiff neck, confusion, muscle weakness, paralysis, disorientation, and seizures. In rare cases, the virus can cause coma or death.

The Alabama Hospital Association launched a campaign this week to push for expansion of the state's Medicaid program. Politicians in the Deep South have often opposed expansion, but the Alabama Hospital Association is urging citizens and policy makers to think of expansion as they would any other economic development investment, arguing it would benefit communities and the entire state health care system in addition to the estimated three hundred thousand people who would gain health care coverage, add thirty thousand jobs, and twenty eight billion to the economy.

Alabama's Supreme Court voted 5-4 to overturn the death sentence of a Birmingham man convicted in a 2009 robbery and shooting. The high court is directing a Jefferson County judge to sentence Anthony Lane to life without possibility of parole. The ruling came after the U.S. Supreme Court had ordered Alabama's courts to reconsider the death sentence in 2015. The Justices cited cases that say states can't execute people with mental disabilities. However, even after that, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals had reaffirmed that Lane should get the death penalty.

The Alabama Department of Education wants more money for school security and other programs next year. The Montgomery Advertiser reported that State Schools Superintendent Eric Mackey says he wants more money for reading and math programs, as well as for pre-kindergarten special education. Mackey says additional funding is also needed for transportation and school nurses. The Superintendent told the state board of education that the $30 million for school nurses would not add one nurse in Alabama. He said state funding for the nurses would free up local money for other programs.

Publix supermarkets is asking its customers and associates to directly assist those affected by Hurricane Florence. The chain operates over a thousand stores in Alabama and throughout the southern U.S., including North and South Carolina which are among the states hard hit by Florence. Shoppers can donate any amount by adding it to their grocery totals when checking out at Publix registers. All of the funds collected will go to the American Red Cross in support of Hurricane Florence relief efforts.

APR's Pat Duggins

Hundreds of children crowded the auditorium at the Ben Ray Main Library in Mobile for the city’s first “Drag Queen Story Hour.” Former Tuscaloosa resident Wade Brasfield, in his stage drag persona of “Ms. Khloe Kash,” read two books for the young crowd, “The Rainbow Fish,” and “Stella has a Family,’ which is about a little girl with two dads. Brasfield feels he would have benefited from a “drag queen story time” when he young, and had difficulty dealing with intolerance at school.

The estate of the man at the center of the popular "S-Town" podcast is suing the show's creators. The executor for John B. McLemore’s estate says the producers exploited details of his private life for financial gain. The lawsuit contends McLemore didn't give permission to broadcast the intimate details of his sexual orientation, mental state and other aspects of his life. "S-Town" tells the story of McLemore, an antique clock restorer from the town of Woodstock who killed himself in 2015.

He calls her a "Swampy Star." She calls him a tiger thief. Alabama Public Service Commission President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh and State House member Will Ainsworth of Guntersville are swapping accusations ahead of Tuesday's heated GOP runoff in the race for lieutenant governor. Each also claims the other is distorting the truth. Cavanaugh is running an ad targeting Ainsworth's theft arrest when he was a college student and was accused of stealing fiberglass tigers in downtown Auburn. The charges were later dropped.

Alabama Public Radio will be providing "live" coverage of President Trump's announcement of his pick to replace retiring Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy. NPR's Ari Shapiro will be joined by Nina Totenberg, Mara Liasson, and Kelsey Snell. Our coverage will begin at 8 pm tonight.

Alabama Power says over fifty thousand of its customers are waking up in the dark this morning (as of 8 am) following a line of strong thunderstorms. The system pushed through Alabama downing trees and power lines. WHNT-TV reported that a seventy -year-old woman is in critical condition after being struck by lightning. Lineville Police told reporters they had a fatality, but didn’t provide details. Severe thunderstorm warnings were issued for multiple Alabama counties as the storms, with winds as high as sixty miles per hour, swept through the state.  

The Alabama based National Association of School Resource Officers is being pressured to withdraw an invitation for U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to speak. A coalition of progressives in Nevada upset with the Trump administration's immigration policy is urging the group to rethink having Sessions speak at a school safety conference in Reno next week. Leaders of more than a dozen labor unions, women's, religious and minority groups sent a letter Thursday asking the association to rescind its invitation to Sessions because of the administration's stand on immigration.

The U.S. Coast Guard in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi launched emergency preparations ahead of the arrival of subtropical Storm Alberto. The National Weather Service says the system is speeding up and is expected to hit the Florida panhandle Monday afternoon before heading north into east-central Alabama. Alberto is expected to retain tropical storm force through much of its trek up Alabama. Heavy downpours were expected to begin lashing parts of Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama on Sunday.

Alabama health officials say they've identified an Auburn University student with a case of pulmonary tuberculosis. The state Department of Public Health says they notified the school this week of plans to investigate and ensure that students and employees will be screened quickly to see if they were infected. Last Wednesday, the state and university began identifying students enrolled in classes, as well as faculty and staff, who might have been in close contact with the student. Symptoms can include chest pain, chronic coughing, coughing with blood, chills, fever and loss of appetite.

Birmingham's Steel City Jazz Festival has been canceled this year. Organizers say the event will be back in 2019. The festival was set for June after moving from Linn Park to Legion Field. Founder Cedric Allen says the festival's fans didn't like the change. Al.com reports ticketholders can get refunds at the place of purchase or hold their tickets until next year's event. Since its inception in 2014, the Steel City Jazz Festival has presented a mix of jazz, soul, funk and R&B acts on its stage in downtown Birmingham.

Democratic gubernatorial contender Sue Bell Cobb is reviewing the case of a high level campaign worker who was arrested for a sex offender registration violation. Paul Littlejohn was arrested Thursday. He’s the director of Cobb's Jefferson County field office. He is also a registered sex offender following a 1985 rape conviction. The charges accuse Littlejohn of working too close to a school or daycare and failing to update his employment with state authorities. Littlejohn works at a church which operates a day care. Online court records do not list an attorney for him.

The U.S. Department of Justice says Connor Glass and Montrez Martin accused in a scheme involving the printing and passing of bogus one hundred dollar and twenty dollar bills. Glass is accused of printing the fake currency and Martin with spending it. The two allegedly conducted the scheme in Cullman and Jackson counties last year. The indictment also charges Glass with passing counterfeit bills at three Dollar General Stores. Martin is a convicted felon who was also charged with possession of a handgun. He was convicted of theft in Iowa in 2014 and assault in Alabama in 2017.

Alabama voters will have two constitutional amendments on the ballot in November during this election year. One would declare Alabama to be an anti-abortion state, and the other would allow the Ten Commandments to be displayed in state buildings like courts and schools. Both measures will appear as referendums on the general-election ballot. The anti-abortion item is considered largely symbolic, since abortion is still legal under federal law. Critics say the amendment would violate the separation of church and state and prompt federal lawsuits.

APR

The Alabama Public Radio news team produced his national award-winning documentary in 2016, for the fifth anniversary of the April 27, 2011 tornado outbreak. Pat D.

“Is it five years? Oh, my gosh…”

Steve Miller’s come a long way since April 27, 2011. He lives in Tuscaloosa’s Hillcrest neighborhood. His new home has lots of windows and there’s plenty of art on the walls. You might not think anything was out of the ordinary. But, the first time APR visited here, things were a lot different.

APR

This Wednesday marks fifty years since the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior. All month long, the APR news team is examining Dr. King’s work in Alabama and his impact here. The civil rights leader inspired his supporters with the Montgomery bus boycott, his letter from the Birmingham Jail, and by leading voting rights marches across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. APR’s Pat Duggins reports on one witness to Dr. King’s earliest work in the civil rights movement, and the place where the two men met...

Bob Fitch Photographic Archives / Stanford University Libraries

This Wednesday marks fifty years since the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior. All month long, the Alabama Public Radio news team has been examining Dr. King’s work and impact here in Alabama. You met a photographer from Montgomery who chronicled the civil rights icon. APR guest reporter Ousmane Sagara of the West African nation of Mali reported on how his countrymen remember Dr. King. And, we examined how Alabama is one of only two states that celebrates the birthdays of Dr. King and Confederate General Robert E. Lee on the same day.

APR/CPT

Alabama Public Radio news director Pat Duggins, and Center for Public Television student videographers Jeb Brackner and Wilson Weirich, ventured to Montgomery to interview Nelson Malden, who was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s barber. Pat produced a radio version for air on Alabama Public Radio, while Brackner and Weirich produced this short documentary in a collaborative effort between APR and CPT.

Areas of Alabama are cleaning up after what’s called significant damage from tornadoes last night. The National Weather Service in Huntsville says at least three confirmed tornadoes hit the area. Rooves were ripped off and power lines torn down, but there are no reports of injuries. Alabama Power says nearly ten thousand customers spent the night without power, with Calhoun County being the hardest hit spot. The athletic director at Jacksonville State University reports there was significant damage to the campus. The school’s Coliseum suffered damage, but it’s still standing.

The director of the state Ethics Commission says a bill before Alabama lawmakers could weaken ethics enforcement in the state. “Considerably,” chairman Tom Albritton says of the potential damage. The House of Representatives approved a bill to exempt economic developers from the definition of “lobbyist” under the state ethics law.

Supporters argue it is needed to help Alabama compete with other states for projects and factories by keeping developers' activity confidential. Critics said it opens up an exemption in the ethics law that governs interactions with government officials.

Concordia College Alabama will close its doors at the end of the spring semester. The Selma Times-Journal reports the faculty, staff and the student body were informed of the decision last week. Dr. James Lyons delivered the news. He’s the college's chief transition officer and interim president. The school was founded in 1922 and has a current student population of around four hundred. It is Selma's only four-year college accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

All sides are picking up the pieces following the postponed execution of Alabama death row inmate Doyle Lee Hamm. State officials called off the lethal injection process after the medical team unsuccessfully tried to find a usable vein to administer the three drug cocktail used in capital punishment. Technicians worked to insert the needle repeatedly in the prisoner’s legs, ankles, and groin in a process that caused Hamm severe bleeding and pain.

Two North Alabama's newspapers are cutting back on their paper editions. The Decatur Daily and the Times Daily report they are discontinuing print editions on Saturdays and Mondays beginning next month. Publisher Clint Shelton says the change is due to the rising cost of newsprint and the changing habits of its readers, who are turning more to the online edition of the newspapers. “While the frequency of the print edition is changing,” says Shelton. “The newspaper's commitment to covering news, sports, events and stories every day of the week remains a 24/7 priority."

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