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," the first radio news operation to be  so honored. 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

Pixabay

A Mobile area support group for military veterans is working to expand substance abuse treatment. Veterans Recovery Resources is working to raise just over two million dollars. The money will go toward building a substance abuse residential treatment center. The group opened its outpatient clinic in Mobile in November of 2018. Executive Director John Kilpatrick says the facility has served more than four hundred service members, veterans, first responders and their families.

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The number of new cases of COVID-19 in Alabama is going down drastically and healthcare providers are working to keep the good news in perspective. The medical community thinks a combination of vaccinations, mask wearing, and the end of the holiday surge are reasons for lower case load.

Dr. Thomas Weida practices at University Medical Center in Tuscaloosa. He said even getting a vaccination doesn’t mean you’re in the clear.

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A Mexican citizen has been extradited to New York to face federal charges of coercing women into working as prostitutes around the United States. Prosecutors say Hugo Hernandez-Velazquez belonged to a New York based group that allegedly used forced women to work in brothels from Alabama to Connecticut. Hernandez-Velazquez was arrested in Mexico in August and extradited to the United States last week.

U.S. Space Command

The inspector general for the Department of Defense may yank the The U.S. Space Command away from Huntsville. The IG is investigating the Trump administration's last-minute decision to relocate the headquarters of the military’s space satellite assets from its current home in Colorado. The inspector general's office will see if Trump’s move complied with government policies.

NASA

Rocket engineers in Huntsville may be breathing a bit easier following the landing of the NASA’s new Mars Lander. The Perseverance Rover touched down at Jezero Crater to search for evidence of ancient life on the red planet. The robot blasted off aboard an Alabama built Atlas-V rocket. Heavy lift Atlas and Delta rockets are built at the United Launch Alliance factory near Decatur. ULA’s website points out that Atlas or Delta rockets have been used to carry all of NASA’s missions to Mars, dating back to Mariner 4 in 1964, which was the space program's first flight to the red planet.

Pixabay

Alabama’s arctic blast this week did more than just make roads icy and dangerous. A number of north Alabama hospitals are cancelling or rescheduling COVID-19 vaccinations due to the snowy weather. Cullman Regional Medical Center says people getting their second dose can come in today. Highlands Medical Clinic is pushing this week’s shots to Thursday and Friday. Dr. Jane Weida is with University Medical Center in Tuscaloosa. She says once everyone is fully vaccinated, boosters may be needed to handle variant strains.

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Alabama motorists need to be on guard for icy streets between now and early Wednesday morning. That’s the warning from forecasters at the National Weather Service in Birmingham. Yesterday’s rain and wintry mix is combining with freezing temperatures all day today over central and northern Alabama.

National Weather Service forecaster Daniel Martin said Alabama drivers who aren’t used to slick streets need to be careful.

“At that time, we’d been singing songs, we shall overcome, and before I’d be a slave…be dead and buried in my grave,” says Bennie Lee Tucker. He’s seventy four years old, and he spent the last fifty five of those years here in Selma. “And we gonna let nobody turn us around, no more Governor Wallace…no more white folk,” he says.

On the front porch of his home on Eugene Avenue, Tucker recalls March 7th, 1965. It was the height of the voting rights movement. Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior wasn’t the name on everyone’s mind that day.

APR

The Selma City Council is declaring March 15th to be "F.D. Reese Day" in the community. Frederick Douglas Reese was 88 when he died in 2018. He had been part of the "Courageous Eight" who played a key role in inviting the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to Selma to join the fight to ensure voting rights for all. The works of Reese and his peers led to the Selma-to-Montgomery marches.

UA-CPT

Admirers of Dr. Martin Luther King, junior have the opportunity to snag a unique piece of memorabilia. An auction house is offering pages of an old jail record signed by Dr. King while he was incarcerated in Alabama in 1963. It's there that King wrote his famous "letter from the Birmingham jail." A jail worker rescued the documents which feature a dozen King signatures.

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The U.S. Senate today acquitted Donald Trump of inciting the siege on the U.S. Capitol, concluding a historic impeachment trial. Seven Republicans sided with Democrats who voted to convict the former President. That includes Bill Cassidy of Louisiana who was considered a “wild card” vote after he criticized the Trump’s legal team. Senators Richard Shelby and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama were among those who voted to acquit. That trial exposed the fragility of America's democratic traditions and left a divided nation to come to terms with the violence sparked by his defeated presidency.

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby

After some last minute wrangling over witnesses during Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial, observers are watching to see how Alabama’s senior U.S. Senator Richard Shelby votes. The longtime GOP lawmaker says he will not be running for re-election. That means his name is being mentioned alongside possible Republicans who might vote for conviction.

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Precautions against COVID-19 may be making the annual flu season less deadly in Alabama.

Health care providers are continuing to press the message about wearing face masks and social distancing to help avoid the coronavirus. These actions as well as washing your hands frequently are also recommended ways to keep from catching influenza.

Dr. Jane Weida teaches family medicine at the University of Alabama. She said Alabama’s flu case numbers before and during the COVID outbreak are dramatic.

APR student intern Tina Turner

The St. James Hotel resumed business this week as part of the Hilton chain. The focal point of downtown Selma, overlooking the Alabama River, reopened following a $5 million dollar renovation. The refurbishment updates the old building in the heart of Selma, where the hotel first opened in 1836. That was when the city was a hub of Alabama's plantation region. The Selma Times-Journal reports that it took two years of planning, negotiations with the city of Selma and extensive refurbishments to return the hotel to its former glory.

WVUA-TV

President Donald Trump has pardoned former Alabama State House Ed Henry shortly before leaving office. The former state chairman of Trump’s 2016 campaign pleaded guilty in 2019 for his role in a health care fraud case. Henry’s pardon was one of the dozens of pardons and clemency grants Trump announced during his final day in office. Henry made headlines back in 2016 when he led the charge to remove Alabama Governor Robert Bentley following an alleged scandal involving a female aide.

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The city of Birmingham is starting off the new year as one of the “neediest” cities in the nation.

The financial website Wallethub did a study that looks specifically at the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The list includes job losses, homelessness, food insecurity, and cities whose residents lack insurance. Birmingham came in at No. 6 nationally.

Wallethub analyst Jill Gonzales said the coronavirus outbreak did more than just threaten the health of residents of the Magic City.

University of Alabama Athletics

The Crimson Tide faces the Ohio State Buckeyes for the national title tonight.

Alabama takes the field following a year marked by COVID-19 and the Heisman Trophy. Tide star DeVonta Smith is the first wide receiver since 1991 to win the award for best college football player. The coronavirus sidelined Coach Nick Saban for one game and forced the LSU Tigers to postpone a November game.

As for tonight's match-up, Saban said Ohio State proved they were a good team when they defeated Clemson in the Sugar Bowl.

APR's Pat Duggins

The University of Alabama is the next spot to offer COVID-19 vaccinations starting today. The Tuscaloosa campus has 3,500 doses of the Moderna product, which was approved after the vaccine created by Pfizer. The shots will be administered on an ongoing schedule of Fridays and weekends.

Dr. Richard Friend is Dean at the college. He saic he wants to start with full doses to people who are particularly at risk from the virus.

University of Alabama Athletics

The Alabama Crimson Tide is in final practice ahead of Monday’s National Championship game against Ohio State. One possible complication for the Tide is the upcoming departure of Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarksian. The four year Tuscaloosa veteran is leaving to become the new head coach of the Texas Longhorns. Tide Head coach Nick Saban says he’s expecting no distractions as Alabama gears up for the title game.

PBS

Alabama U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville and U.S. House member Mo Brooks followed through on their pledges to protest the certification of the Electoral College vote for President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris. Their action took place following what’s being called the first breach of the U.S. Capitol since the War of 1812. Republican Brooks announced just after 11:00 pm EST that he and colleagues proceeded with their objection of the Electoral College votes in Nevada. Brooks added that since no one in the U.S.

Alabama Public Radio is presenting NPR's rolling coverage of protesters who breeched the U.S. Capitol building and the floor of the U.S. Senate. The attack followed a public address by President Trump where he allegedly urged his followers to take action following the Electoral College certification of Joe Biden as winner of the race for U.S. President.

sba.gov / U.S. Small Business Administration

 

 Alabama will be part of a big change for the Small Business Administration. 

The Women’s Business Center in Clanton will be part of the SBA’s new effort to help businesses owned by women. The center is part of a group called the Regional Economic Assistance for Communicating Hope or REACH for short.

 

CFP

The Ohio State Buckeyes says it will face Alabama for the college football championship despite concerns of COVID-19 issues within its ranks. Published reports say the winners of this year’s Sugar Bowl semifinal against Clemson may not have enough key players to take the field at Hard Rock Stadium for Monday’s title game against the Tide. Ohio State has had problems with the coronavirus throughout the season going to the cancellation of its game against Illinois.

University of Alabama

Crimson Tide player DeVonta Smith is the first wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy since Desmond Howard did it while playing for Michigan in 1991. Smith is now Alabama's third winner of the Heisman, following running backs Mark Ingram and Derrick Henry. Smith took the honor for best player in college football over three other finalists. The list included Alabama quarterback Mac Jones, Clemson's Trevor Lawrence, and Kyle Trask of Florida.

NCAA

The suspense is set to end tonight for two members of the Crimson Tide. Alabama quarterback Mac Jones and wide receiver DeVonta Smith are finalists for the Heisman Trophy. They’ll join Florida’s Kyle Trask and Trevor Lawrence of Clemson as nominees for best player in college football. This year’s Heisman presentation will be conducted remotely due to COVID-19.

Mac Jones had nothing but good things to say about DeVonta Smith shortly before the list of finalists was announced.

 

Two Alabama lawmakers may find themselves in the middle of an attempt to overthrow President-Elect Joe Biden’s victory on election day.

Newly sworn Alabama U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville said he’ll join an estimated dozen members of the upper chamber in challenging the Electoral College’s certification of Joe Biden as President. Observers say tomorrow’s vote in Congress is largely ceremonial and any attempt to overturn the outcome is doomed to failure. 

 

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An emergency rule on curbside alcohol sales, unanimously adopted by the Alabama ABC Board, ends on January 4th. The amendment allows bars and restaurants licensed to sell spirits to dispense drinks “to-go” until tomorrow. The order came as concerns over a holiday spike of COVID-19 cases continued to grow statewide. Chambers of commerce across the state requested the curbside alcohol sales amendment. The rule restricts the amount of alcohol to be sold to .375 liters of spirits, two bottles of wine, or one hundred and forty four ounces of beer per customer.

University of Alabama and Ohio State

The 2021 college football title game will be a rematch from the 2015 bowl season. Alabama won a lopsided 31-14 victory over Notre Dame, and the Ohio State Buckeyes routed Clemson 49-28 in the Sugar Bowl. Those wins set up the College Football Playoff title game at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium between Alabama and Ohio State. The last time the two teams met was in the 2015 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. The Buckeyes beat the Tide 42-25 during that semi-final game.

APR's Pat Duggins

The home of Alabama’s Women’s Hall of Fame will remain open for now. Judson College in the town of Marion met a fundraising goal. Schools officials say the college met a half million dollar cash target from donors. Other supporters have reportedly committed money toward a future total of one point three million. The school’s Board of Trustees is approving a plan to move forward with a residential spring semester for all returning students, and the school is looking ahead for a fall session.

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Today marks six years since recreational marijuana was legalized in Colorado. Alabama State Senator Tim Melson, a Republican from Florence, says he plans to re-introduce a bill that would allow Alabamians to possess and use cannabis for medical reasons under strict regulation. The idea passed in the Alabama Senate, but failed to pass in the State House during the 2020 legislative session. Voters in Colorado, by contrast, approved a constitutional amendment legalizing pot by a 54% margin.

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