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


An APR news feature

Saturday is noteworthy for different reasons. It depends on who you talk to. For kids in Alabama and around the country, it’s Halloween. For fans of the U.S. space program, it’s something else. It was twenty years ago this Saturday that a three person crew blasted off for the first mission aboard the International Space Station. Men and women from the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan and other nations have been there ever since.

If you want to know about it’s like to be on the International Space Station, you can always ask John Herrington.

An APR news special report.

A note to our readers, this documentary contains content of an adult nature. Parents may want to consider whether it's appropriate for all ages.

“My friend Becca took to me the hospital, but I hadn’t told the hospital what had happened to me,” Dixie Shannon said. She lives in Central Alabama.


The Moundville Archeological Park continues its Native American Festival today. The guest list includes the first Native American to fly in space. Former NASA astronaut John Herrington is a member of the Chickasaw Nation. He flew aboard Space Shuttle Discovery in 2002 and helped install part of the International Space Station’s spinelike truss. Herrington says his work on the orbiting outpost builds on the efforts of other Native Americans who constructed the Empire State Building and other New York City skyscrapers in the 1930’s.


Hurricane Sally hit the Gulf Shores as a Category 2 storm with winds hitting 105 mph. The Alabama coast is receiving large downpours of rain and storm surges are covering the beaches.

The National Hurricane Center said this will result in dangerous, possibly historic flooding from the Florida Panhandle to Mississippi as well as inland on the coast within the upcoming days.


Hurricane Sally has the Gulf coast on alert for flooding, storm surge, high winds, and up to two feet of rain The system is crawling toward the northern Gulf Coast at just two mph. That pace that's enabling the storm to gather huge amounts of water to eventually dump on land. Forecasters now expect landfall late tonight or early Wednesday near the Alabama-Mississippi state line. Rainfall is increasing in the two states, where some coastal roads have been closed because of flooding. Forecasters say the slow-moving storm will bring record flooding to the region.

University Press of Florida

The criminal case against a former NASA astronaut is still working its way through the courts in Tuscaloosa. Space Shuttle crewmember Jim Halsell stands charged with reckless murder in the deaths of two sisters. Jayla Parler and Niomi James died in the early morning traffic crash near Tuscaloosa in 2016. Halsell’s case is attracting attention, in part because of his history with NASA. But, this wasn’t the only time an astronaut faced this brand of spotlight.

Schools in Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, and in Madison and Montgomery Counties, say they'll go with virtual classes for the first part of the new school year. A program to aid Alabama families with students who are limited to distance learning this fall because of the coronavirus pandemic will provide $100 million dollars for increased internet service. The state says vouchers will help pay for the cost of equipment and high-speed internet service through the end of the year, They'll be available for students who receive free or reduced-price meals or meet other income criteria.

Health officials in Alabama say a surge in coronavirus cases has overwhelmed Alabama's ability to provide test results within the expected 2- to 3-day turnaround. The Alabama Department of Public Health says the current timeframe for results for most COVID-19 testing performed in Alabama by commercial laboratories and the state laboratory is now averaging about a week. The department asked health providers to limit testing to the "most vulnerable" and asked employers not to require employees to test negative for the virus before returning to work.

Huntsville Space Camp

The home of Huntsville Space Camp says it’s on the verge closing for good. The U.S. Space and Rocket Center is setting up a GoFundMe to raise $1.5 million. Otherwise, the facility may close at the end of October.

The center is home to one of only three Saturn Five moon rockets left from the Apollo moon missions. Another exhibit is the Apollo 16 command capsule which carried astronaut John Young, Ken Mattingly, and Charlie Duke to moon.

The late U.S. Congressman John Lewis has crossed Selma's Edmund Pettus Bridge for the final time as remembrances continue for the civil rights icon. A processional with Lewis' casket was carried across the bridge where he and other civil rights marchers were beaten fifty five years ago on "Bloody Sunday," a key event in the fight for voting rights for African Americans. Lewis will lie in repose at the Alabama Capitol on Sunday afternoon. Lewis figured prominently in Alabama Public Radio's international award winning documentary "More Bridges to Cross."


An APR News Feature

More Alabama cities are requiring residents to wear face masks as a result of COVID-19. Selma joined Montgomery and Birmingham with a mask order last Friday. Other municipalities like Tuscaloosa, Decatur, and Mobile are thinking about it. The Tuscaloosa City Council will take public comment later today on a mask requirement. This meeting takes place after 36 people died of COVID-19 in Tuscaloosa County.


An APR News Feature

The University of Alabama system is taking the latest steps this week toward a planned return of students in the fall. A resolution from the board of trustees says at least some students can return to the Tuscaloosa campus starting this week. The university system plans to respond to COVID-19 heading into the fall semester, but some issues may go beyond the classroom.

“We are excited that we’re able to release our campus plan for return to operations for the fall semester,” University of Alabama President Stuart Bell said.

The Alabama Gulf coast remains under a tropical storm warning as re-energized Tropical Storm Cristobal advanced toward the U.S. Gulf Coast. Mobile has a 100% rain chance today as Cristobal spawned a tornado in Florida and brought heavy rains that already caused flooding and mudslides in Mexico and Central America. The National Hurricane Center in Miami says Cristobal's maximum sustained winds are near 50 mph and is forecast to close in on the U.S. Gulf Coast by Sunday night.


An APR News Feature

The number of COVID-19 cases in Alabama has jumped by thirty percent over the past two weeks. The State Department of Health puts out data on a county by county basis. This dashboard includes things like the number of deaths, the number of cases, and how many people have recovered. One area of interest is how the virus is spread from person to person. Apple and Google have announced a high tech way of doing that. Experts on that subject here in Alabama are saying watch what you wish for.

Montgomery might become the latest Alabama city to require the wearing of face masks in public as the city deals with rising COVID-19 cases. Coronavirus cases in Alabama's capitol city are reportedly up by 38% since last week, and COVID-19 deaths have increased by 27% since a week ago. Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed says that the proposal may be brought to the city council as soon as Tuesday. Birmingham currently has an ordinance requiring face masks in public. The Birmingham City Council on Friday voted to extend the face mask ordinance through June 12.


Jeff Sessions is pushing back at President Donald Trump's criticisms. Sessions is running for the GOP nomination for his old U.S. Senate seat. Trump has voiced disapproval on Session's recusal in the Russia investigation when he was attorney general. Sessions responded to Trump, by tweeting that the president was "damn fortunate" that he recused himself as required by law. Sessions says it protected the rule of law and resulted in Trump's exoneration.


The University of Alabama system says it will cooperate in the development of a voluntary mobile phone APP that could help keep track of COVID-19 among its students. Proponents of using cell phone tracking data to follow the spread of COVID-19 say this technology could be used to track the spread of the virus and warn others. University of Alabama graduate Jake Ellenberg is Chief Marketing Officer for a company called XMode. It provides tools to the developers of free cell phone APPs to track the movements of users of their customers.

COVID-19 coronavirus

Alabama’s death toll from the coronavirus neared 500 on Saturday. The Alabama Department of Public Health reports at least 485 deaths yesterday. That's an increase of 12 since Friday. There are also more than 11,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state. Meanwhile, the annual Memorial Day celebration at Veterans Memorial Park in Tuscaloosa has been canceled because of the global pandemic. The county's Park and Recreation Authority and the Veterans Memorial Park Association says there are plans to hold a joint Memorial Day/Veteran's Day celebration in November.

Rock and Roll legend to be buried in Huntsville

May 16, 2020

Rock 'n' roll pioneer Little Richard will be buried in a private funeral at Oakwood University, a historically black university in Huntsville, Alabama. Gerald Kibble is director of Oakwood Memorial Gardens. He says the private funeral will be Wednesday and will not be open to the public. Little Richard's close friend Pastor Bill Minson says the singer was an alumnus of the university. Little Richard died Saturday at the age of 87 in Tennessee due to bone cancer. Alabama is known for its connection to music industry.

APR's Pat Duggins

An APR News Feature

Alabama Public Radio is partnering with the commercial TV newsroom at WVUA23 and the University of Alabama's Center for Public TV to operate an innovative joint COVID-19 journalism unit. This story is part of that collaboration.


The Republican leader of the Alabama Senate says an idea to use federal COVID relief dollars to build a new Statehouse should be "part of the discussion." Alabama lawmakers expect a special session later this year to decide how to spend coronavirus dollars from Washington. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh says legislative leaders gave Governor Kay Ivey a preliminary list of ideas that included $800 million for broadband access across the state and $200 million for a new Statehouse. Marsh says his priority is rural broadband access.

Montgomery company to help Trump "build his wall"

May 9, 2020

The U.S. government is awarding a $275 million contract for construction of President Donald Trump's border wall between the United States and Mexico. Montgomery based Caddell Construction Company won the contract to build fourteen miles of barriers in and around Laredo, Texas. The city of 260,000 people sits on the Rio Grande, which runs between Texas and Mexico. Construction is set to begin in South Texas in January, at the start of President Donald Trump's second term if he is re-elected.

U.S. regulators will allow emergency use of the first drug that appears to help some coronavirus patients recover faster. A study including researchers at UAB found the drug Remdesivir shortened the time to recovery for hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The drug also might be reducing deaths, although that's not certain from the partial results revealed so far. COVID-19 patients in Birmingham are helping to pioneer the treatment for the virus. The University of Alabama in Birmingham is participating in an ongoing study of the coronavirus drug.

CPT's Will Green

An APR News Feature --Part of an innovative collaboration between Alabama Public Radio, the commercial newsroom at WVUA23-TV, and the University of Alabama's Center for Public Television (CPT.)

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicts Alabama’s death rate from COVID-19 won’t hit zero for another three weeks.  That prompted an emergency call from hospitals in need of protective equipment for first responders.

“We haven’t if our supplies of PPEs are going to last So, there’s been this factor of…just the unknown,” Dee Calce said.

Alabama reports first COVID-19 death of a prison inmate

Apr 19, 2020

The first Alabama prisoner has died after testing positive for the new coronavirus. The state Department of Corrections announced the death and confirmed two other COVID-19 cases among inmates. The announcement of the first death came after concerns by inmate advocates and health experts that the virus could be particularly dangerous in overcrowded and unsanitary state prisons. The state prison chief said the system is implementing containment strategies. Inmates at St. Clair and Bullock prisons have been quarantined.


Restaurants in Alabama, and elsewhere in the nation, are thinking ahead to the day when their dining room doors reopen to a changed world due to the coronavirus. Restaurant owners say there may be physical differences, like masked waiters, disposable menus or fewer tables so patrons can sit further apart. Richard Schwartz' company owns several Alabama beachside restaurants, including Doc's Seafood Shack in Orange Beach and Hazel's Nook in Gulf Shores.

APR's Pat Duggins

An Alabama Public Radio news feature, which is part of APR's effort to address the "news desert" along the state's Gulf coast. APR recruited and trained veteran print journalists in Mobile and Baldwin counties to join our news team to do radio stories from along the Gulf coast.


An Alabama Public Radio news feature, which is part of APR's effort to address the "news desert" along the state's Gulf coast. APR recruited and trained veteran print journalists in Mobile and Baldwin counties to join our news team to do radio stories from along the Gulf coast.


The threat of strong tornadoes on Easter is posing a double-edged safety dilemma for Deep South during the coronavirus pandemic. Forecasters say an outbreak of severe thunderstorms with powerful twisters is likely Sunday from Louisiana through the Tennessee Valley. More than 4.5 million people live in the area where dangerous weather is most likely, including Alabama and Mississippi. Some communities have waffled on whether to open storm shelters because of the virus threat.


Roughly forty million African Americans are deciding minute by minute who to trust during the COVID-19 outbreak. The Associated Press is reporting on whether blacks are ready to put their faith in the government and in the medical field during the coronavirus pandemic. Historic failures in government response to disasters and emergencies, medical abuse, neglect and exploitation have jaded generations of black people into a distrust of public institutions. Some might call it the "Tuskegee effect," referring to the U.S.