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.  Most recently, 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 alongside The New York Times, the Washington Post, ABC-TV, and PBS FRONTLINE. In addition, APR was selected over that year's RFK award laureates to receive the RFK Human Rights Foundation's "John Siegenthaler Prize for Courage in Journalism." Duggins and the team also investigated conditions at Alabama prisons which won APR's third national Sigma Delta Chi award from the Society of Professional Journalists. Following the airing of this series and documentary, the U.S. DOJ began an investigation into Alabama prisons, and Governor Kay Ivey enacted a law that stops judges from overruling jury recommendations of life in prison in murder cases, and imposing the death penalty.

APR 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 back-to-back National Sigma Delta Chi awards from the Society of Professional Journalists.

The Radio Television Digital News Association also honored Pat and the team with three national Edward R. Murrow Awards, including the prestigious prize 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 APR's first national PRNDI award from the Public Radio News Directors' Association in a decade, as well as 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 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

Orange Bowl committee

The Orange Bowl Committee today announced that it will add former Alabama running back Shaun Alexander to the Orange Bowl Hall of Fame. The presentation will be made December 28th, when the Alabama Crimson Tide faces Oklahoma in one of the two semi-final games leading to the 2019 College Football Playoff Championship game in Santa Clara, California. Alexander was a standout for the Tide during the 2000 Orange Bowl against Michigan. Orange Bowl Committee member Larry Gautier was in charge of hosting Alabama and remembers the game…

APR's Pat Duggins

The Tide and Sooners made the final four, along with Notre Dame and Clemson who will play in the Orange Bowl. Alabama’s victory over Georgia in the SEC Championship in Atlanta bumped the Bulldogs from the playoffs. That likely left fans of the Tide breathing easier. Not even head coach Nick Saban wanted to play Georgia again after the Dogs held the lead in the conference title game until barely a minute left in the fourth quarter. Saban says the medical staff will be watching Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and his twin ankle injuries…

Tuscaloosa protester
Pat Duggins / APR

Protesters across Alabama marched in support of special counsel Robert Mueller. APR’s Pat Duggins reports on marches in Tuscaloosa as well as in Birmingham, Florence, Fairhope, Huntsville, and Montgomery.

Republican Kay Ivey won a full term as Alabama Governor over Democrat Walt Maddox. The state’s second female head of state ran a campaign that emphasized the state's recovering economy and restoring trust to state government. Ivey’s victory dashes Democrats' hopes of making gains in the deeply red state. Republicans swept all statewide offices and contested congressional seats and unofficial returns showed Ivey capturing almost sixty percent of the vote in the gubernatorial contest. Ivey had been lieutenant governor, became governor nineteen months ago when then-Gov.

APR's Pat Duggins

Alabama voters head to the polls in less than three weeks. They’ll pick a governor, members of the cabinet, and a lot of state house and senate seats. One thing that may stick out on the ballot is that many of the candidates are women. Glamour Magazine published an article on the eighteen African-American Alabama women running in the midterms. APR’s Pat Duggins reports on the campaigns of another twenty three female candidates in Alabama which are being fueled by a statewide initiative…

APR's Pat Duggins

CBS says the football game between Alabama-LSU in prime time Saturday night drew the best overnight television rating for any college football game this season. The top-ranked Crimson Tide's twenty nine to zero shutout victory against the Tigers earned a 6.7 TV audience rating. That was up eighty one percent from last season's 3.7 rating in prime time. CBS says the game peaked with an 8.0 rating between 9-9:30 p.m. Eastern. Alabama and LSU beat Ohio State at Penn State on Sept. 29, which drew a 5.3 rating on ABC.

Officials in Huntsville are giving a gun maker three more years to meet job quotas in an incentive deal. The Huntsville City Council on Thursday approved the extension for Remington Outdoor Company. The gun maker got sixty nine million dollars in state and local incentives when it announced the plant in 2014. In return the company was supposed to have hired six hundred and eighty local employees last year. The Remington plant makes handguns and rifles.

Damage surveys are continuing in some areas after twenty eight confirmed tornadoes that hit Alabama and other areas of the south Wednesday night and into Thursday. National Weather Service surveyors in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama updated the number of twisters as part of a storm system that moved across the region. Alabama had two tornadoes, including one that damaged a factory in Cusseta. Mississippi also saw at least ten twisters, including one in Natchez with estimated top winds of one hundred and fifteen miles per hour, which damaged trees and structures.

Work is set to begin soon on a "mega sports complex" in northeast Alabama. The Gadsden Times reports work to clear the land for construction on the one hundred and thirty nine acre site is set to begin this month. Supporters want the facility to have up to fourteen soccer fields to accommodate the nine hundred soccer players in Etowah County's two soccer leagues. The fields also can reportedly serve as playing grounds for other sports, and softball and baseball.

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.

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