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

Judson College

Judson College just held what may be its last graduation ceremony. The school's trustees voted to close the small Baptist-affiliated school for women which predates the Civil War. Campus leaders cite a lack of money and declining enrollment in the decision to close Judson, which was founded in 1838 and is the nation’s fifth-oldest college for women.

Amazon union Bessemer
Associated Press


A vote not to unionize at Amazon’s Bessemer plant may not be the end of the matter.


The National Relations Board will meet tomorrow to discuss close to two dozen legal challenges to the recent vote to unionize at Amazon’s plant near Birmingham. The objections include allegations that Amazon used illegal tactics to intimidate employee voters.



Alabama still ranks near the bottom for COVID-19 vaccinations in the U.S. States and territories.

Data from the Pathcheck Foundation puts Alabama last among U.S. States and just ahead of Puerto Rico and the Marshall Islands. Health care providers in the state are working to reassure residents about getting a COVID-19 shot. That includes pregnant women.

Dr. Jodie Dionne-Odom is an infectious specialist at UAB. She said recent COVID-19 vaccine testing on pregnant women shows its safe and effective.

Governor Kay Ivey’s “safer apart” plan, currently suggests wearing masks and social distancing, is now set to expire at the end of the month. The asssociated "State of Emergency" will end in July.


Mississippi has the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rate in the U.S., with about 30% of its population receiving at least shot. An Associated Press analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows Alabama, Louisiana, Idaho and Wyoming are the next four. Those states vote reliably Republican in presidential races. So Republican leaders are stepping up efforts to persuade their supporters to get the shot, at times combating misinformation. The five states with the highest vaccination rates backed Democrat Joe Biden in November.


Officials are hopeful Carnival Cruise Lines can resume its trips from Mobile. The area tourism agency says cruises account for $150 million annually, and a more than yearlong shutdown has hurt the local economy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines recently that would allow companies that meet certain benchmarks to resume operating around mid-July. APR spoke with Gulf coast tourism officials about post-COVID tourism. The coverage was part of our series on the tenth anniversary of the Gulf oil spill.

...It's me, Vanya.

Apr 26, 2021

An APR/UACPT news documentary

Today marks 35 years since the Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster. The 1986 explosion in the Soviet nation of Ukraine sent radioactive fallout drifting north over the neighboring country of Belarus. That’s where families in Alabama stepped in. During the years 1999 and 2000, over two hundred Belarusian children were flew to the State for medical treatment and a chance to get away from the shadow of Chernobyl. Alabama Public Radio collaborated with the University of Alabama's Center for Public Television on this story, which is still unfolding.


COVID-19 vaccination clinics will be operating this coming week across Alabama. This effort goes on following reports that demand for coronavirus shots in the State is dropping. The Mobile County Health Department will be giving first doses of the Moderna vaccine Monday at the Little Rock A.M.E. Zion Church. Doctor Sarah Nafziger is with UAB’s Department of Emergency Medicine. She says UAB is operating three vaccine clinics in Jefferson County.

Next  Tuesday marks ten years since Alabama's super tornado outbreak of 2011. The National Weather Service recalls 154 tornado warnings across the state that day. The Alabama Public Radio news team will be checking back with many of the people our listeners heard from in the hours following the killer storms. The APR news team's coverage of the storms was recognized with the national Edward R. Murrow Award for Overall Excellence from RTDNA, and back-to-back national Sigma Delta Chi awards from the Society of Professional Journalists.


Officials say tourist spending in Alabama dropped 20% last year at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The state fared better than most during the coronavirus crisis. The Alabama Tourism Department says a travel consulting firm found a nationwide decline of over 40% in travel expenditures. But Alabama's decrease wasn't as bad because spending was robust in Baldwin County—home to beach towns like Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Visitors spent more than $13 billion on accommodations, travel, food, shopping and other items in the state in 2020.


"When Vanya came home"

Next Monday is the thirty fifth anniversary of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster. All week long, Alabama Public Radio and the University of Alabama’s Center for Public Television have been looking at the ongoing impact of the so-called Children of Chernobyl. That’s when Alabama families hosted children in the shadow of the nuclear plant disaster. It may have been 20 years ago, but the family ties still appear strong.


"Welcome to Alabama"

All week long on Alabama Public Radio, we’ve been looking at the ongoing impact of the so called Children of Chernobyl program. Twenty years ago, Alabama families hosted children living in the shadow of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster. APR and the University of Alabama’s Center for Public Television collaborated on the story how after this time, the family bonds created by the program still appear strong. In part three, we explains what happened when the kids got here.


 "The Inside Man"-- Next Monday marks 35 years since the Soviet nuclear plant disaster that became known as Chernobyl. Yesterday on APR, we met the Lee family of the city of Pelham. They took in a 9-year-old boy from the nation of Belarus in the year 2000. Belarus is just north of where the Chernobyl plant blew up in 1986. It’s also where a lot of the radioactive fallout drifted. Alabama Public Radio and the University of Alabama’s Center for Public Television collaborated on the story on how children from Belarus were brought to our state for visits beginning in the late 1990’s.


An APR news feature -- Next week marks 35 years since the Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster. The 1986 explosion in the Soviet nation of Ukraine sent radioactive fallout drifting north over the neighboring country of Belarus. That’s where families in Alabama stepped in. During the years 1999 and 2000, over 200 Belarusian children were flown to the state for medical treatment and a chance to get away from the shadow of Chernobyl. APR and the University of Alabama's Center for Public Television collaborated on this coverage.


Alabama healthcare providers still can’t use the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention imposed a hold on all J & J shots because of blood clots linked to six cases. The delay is a concern in Alabama since the one shot vaccine was hoped to give patients in rural areas a better chance to get inoculated.

Dr. Richard Friend is the Dean of the University of Alabama’s College of Community Health Sciences. He said the pause may shake public confidence in the J & J vaccine.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says almost one hundred and thirty million people aged eighteen or older have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine. That just over fifty percent of the total adult population. Almost 84 million people adults, or about third of that population, have been fully vaccinated. The news marks another milestone in the nation's largest-ever vaccination campaign. It also leaves more work to do to convince skeptical Americans to roll up their sleeves. However, that doesn’t apply to Alabama.


A woman who served a 10-year sentence in Alabama is being deported for lying about her role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The lawyer for Beatrice Munyenyezi says she lost her bid for a new trial has been sent home to Rwanda. The violence involved members of separate Rwandan tribes, the Hutus and Tutsis.


Alabama enters its first full week today without Governor Kay Ivey’s COVID-19 mask mandate. The new “safer apart” program suggests masks and social distancing, but doesn’t require it. It replaces the original “safer at home” plan. Birmingham and Montgomery are still requiring masks for now. That subject came up during a press conference with UAB Epidemiologist Dr. Rachael Lee. She says UAB hospital still has a mask mandate.

Pickens County is the latest spot to be served by a coalition of health centers aimed at providing COVID-19 vaccinations in rural area. The Alabama Area Health Education Centers Network is instituting a wide-ranging plan to bring COVID-19 vaccines to rural communities in the state. The group began vaccination clinics in Coosa and Tallapoosa counties last month.


An Alabama coal company has reached a tentative deal with labor to end a strike that idled more than 1,100 workers in Tuscaloosa County. The United Mine Workers of America announced the agreement with Warrior Met Coal Incorporated where members have been on strike at two mines and adjoining facilities since Thursday. APR spoke with the United Mine Workers Union on how rank and file miners were gearing up for the long haul. Union spokesman Phil Smith said strikers would be supported by a fund union members contribute to every pay period.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still lists Alabama as worst in the nation for vaccinating its population against COVID-19. However, a local “get a shot” recruitment drive appears to be getting results. Alabama health officials are working to counter problems that include reluctance in heavily Black areas where distrust of government medical initiatives runs deep. They targeted a few counties with a pro-vaccine message, especially in the “black belt.” That’s an old plantation region where a large percentage of the population is Black and many are poor.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders

Amazon workers and labor advocates are making a final push for the union vote at the company's warehouse outside Birmingham, Alabama. Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont told a Friday rally that a labor victory against the tech and retail giant would resonate across the country. If voted down, it would be another loss for organizers hoping to win a rare labor victory in the Deep South.


Investigators from the National Weather Service will fan out today to gauge the strength of storms that hit Alabama, killing at least five. Several homes were destroyed, trees were splintered and businesses damaged. Thousands of customers were left without power. No deaths were immediately reported in the severe weather in Georgia. Several school districts were closed or delayed today due to the damage. Jason Holmes is a forecaster at the National Weather Service. He says it even after a storm it is important to be prepared. “


The Alabama Department of Public Health says the State’s Black Belt region has the highest percentage of people getting COVID-19 vaccinations. ADPH just released the first county numbers for the percentage of people over age 16 that have received a shot. Alabama Public Radio has been focusing coverage on the disparities related to the coronavirus, both on which communities are being hit particularly hard, and those areas having a hard time getting a COVID-19 vaccination.


Organizers trying to form the first union at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer are getting support from Black Lives Matter. The advocacy group plans to hold an event today near the central Alabama warehouse. It’s considered the latest high-profile support effort of the union push, and the biggest in Amazon's nearly 30-year history. Union organizers say most of the workers in the warehouse are Black, and the backing from Black Lives Matter could help further legitimize the cause.

Alabama’s effort to expand COVID-19 vaccinations enters a new phase on March 22nd. That’s when the State will add 2,000,000 more resident eligible for a shot. The revised list will include more frontline workers, people 55 and older, those with developmental disabilities, and residents aged 16 to 64 with certain high-risk medical conditions. The qualifying medical conditions include cancer, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, smoking, obesity, sickle cell disease and heart conditions.

APR's Pat Duggins

Federal agencies will take specific steps to promote access under a new executive order from President Joe Biden. The order comes as congressional Democrats press for a sweeping voting and elections bill to counter efforts to restrict voting access. Biden announced the plan during a recorded address on the 56th commemoration of the 1965 incident known as "Bloody Sunday."


The hometown of NASA Astronaut Jim Voss is apparently on a federal list of metropolitan areas that may lose that designation. A total of one hundred and forty four metro cities, including Opelika, may be downgraded under a proposal that actual “cities” have at least one hundred thousand residents. That’s double the total that’s been in effect for seventy years. Cities with less than that number of dwellers would be known as “Micropolitan” statistical areas.


Only thirteen percent of Alabamians have been vaccinated at all against COVID-19. But, help may be on the way from Johnson and Johnson. The Alabama Department of Public Health says over forty thousand doses of the new J and J COVID vaccine are expected to arrive this week. Doctor Paul Goepfert is a vaccine researcher at UAB. He says the J and J vaccine is just as effective as the other products by Pfizer and Moderna.