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

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.

NPRIllinois

U.S. Senator Doug Jones joins a line of Alabama lawmakers who were exposed to, or tested positive for, COVID-19. The Democratic Senator will spend the final days of his term in quarantine after his wife tested positive for the coronavirus. Jones told his followers on Twitter that his wife Louise isn't feeling too well but is okay. Longtime Republican Alabama U.S. member Mike Rogers tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month, and experienced mild symptoms. The lawmaker told his constituents with a similar Tweet that he was self-isolating after consulting with the House physician.

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With just one exception, every Republican member of the U.S. House from Alabama voted against President Trump over higher COVID-19 relief payments. Robert Aderholt was the lone GOP vote in favor of the $2000 checks favored by Trump and House Democrats. The economic impact of the coronavirus on Alabama remains apparent. The state Department of Labor says over one hundred thousand Alabamians remain without work, blamed largely on the coronavirus. The state’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.4% in November. That’s a big improvement from earlier in the year but still above last year's level.

APR's Pat Duggins

The Crimson Tide continues practice ahead of Friday’s Rose Bowl against Notre Dame. One benefit from moving the game from Pasadena to Texas due to COVID-19 is that more fans and family are being allowed to attend. This game is something of a rematch when Alabama beat the Fighting Irish in 2013. The Tide’s second title in a row was the first back-to-back championships in college football since USC did it in 2003 and 2004. The Trojans were stripped of their 2004 victory, leaving Nebraska as the most recent repeat champion in 1995.

CNN

The Christmas Day explosion in downtown Nashville has caused a ripple effect as far south as Birmingham, Alabama. The blast, being investigated as a deliberate act by the FBI and ATF, occurred in front of a AT & T facility. The T-Mobile cell service company said on Twitter that service disruptions include Alabama, Louisville, Nashville, Knoxville, and Atlanta. The message went on to say that “restoration efforts continue around the clock & we will keep you updated on progress.”

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Political wrangling in the waning days of the Trump administration could hit unemployed Alabamians starting today. The current federal jobless benefits through the U.S. CARES Act are set to expire today, and there’s no indication President Trump has signed a new program ironed out by Congress, which included $900 stimulus checks for most Americans. Trump insisted that the amount be hiked to $2,000, then jetted off to his Mar-A-Lago property in Florida, leaving Democratic lawmakers seizing on the President’s apparent generosity and the GOP reportedly feeling blindsided.

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Alabama officials say $220,000 in federal grant money will be used to assist victims of domestic violence in the state. Law Enforcement agencies note a rise in domestic violence during the coronavirus outbreak, with families forced to remain together and indoors on a ongoing basis. Police in Marengo County, for example, reported four homicides back in May—three of which attributed to domestic violence. More than half the federal grant money will go to AshaKiran Incorporated.

Alabama Public Radio

Alabama teammates Mac Jones and DeVonta Smith are joining Clemson's Trevor Lawrence and Florida's Kyle Trask as finalists for the Heisman Trophy. Jones and Smith are the eighth set of teammates to be finalists together since the tradition started in 1982. Smith is trying to become the first wide receiver to win the Heisman since 1991 when Desmond Howard, now of ESPN’s College Game Day program, took the award for Michigan. Jones was asked about the buzz around the Heisman during a press conference prior to the announcement of the finalists.

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Deaths linked to the coronavirus climbed above 4,600 in Alabama ahead of Christmas. Health experts fear that number will grow because of holiday travel and family gatherings. The state has added more than 4,000 new cases of the illness daily over the last week. Healthcare professionals are still urging less holiday travel to lessen a holiday spike in COVID-19 cases they say started with high school and college football games and Halloween in October and grew worse in November with the Presidential election and Thanksgiving.

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The Alabama Department of Public Health says a person who received the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 had a severe allergic reaction. The incident occurred several minutes later but the recipient appeared to recover afterward. The unidentified person had a history of allergic reactions but elected to have the shot anyway. The patient was immediately treated at Decatur Morgan Hospital, where the vaccine was administered. the reaction was reported to the manufacturer.

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Forecasters say more than four million people near the U.S. Gulf Coast will be at risk of rough weather just ahead of Christmas. The National Storm Prediction Center says damaging wind gusts will be one of the main threats, along with the possibility of a few tornadoes. The storms are expected to move through tonight. The bad weather is combining with the COVID-19 outbreak to impact Christmas celebrations along the coast. Fairhope United Methodist Church tried to move its Christmas Eve services to an outdoor amphitheater due to the coronavirus.

The Alabama Department of Corrections says three more state inmates have died after contracting COVID-19. That brings the system's total number of inmate deaths from the illness to more than 50. The deaths include inmates Larry Gene Knight, Dennis Guyton, and Danny Charles Cunningham, all in their late sixties or early seventies. Those fatalities bring Alabama's total number of inmate deaths from the pandemic to 52. That total includes two prison staffers. The largest concentration of inmates sickened by the new coronavirus is at Bibb Correctional Facility.

Notre Dame University

The Crimson Tide’s opponent in the upcoming Rose Bowl will be spending Christmas in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame University says it’s asking its football players to not travel home for the holidays. Alabama, the Fighting Irish, Clemson, and Ohio State were selected for the two semi-final games ahead of the national title contest in Miami. Notre Dame’s concern over holiday travel for its players is partly over logistics and partly over the coronavirus. Head coach Brian Kelly says it was a tough decision to make.

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Alabama healthcare workers are still pushing the message of less holiday travel during a statewide spike in COVID-19 cases. The State’s Department of Public Health has a list of suggestions on coronavirus safety around Christmas. That includes checking to see how overwhelmed local hospitals are and to avoid family gatherings that include people you don’t live with. Dr. Richard Friend is Dean of the University of Alabama’s College of Community Health Sciences. He says Alabama’s current COVID spike began in October and involved specific events.

APR's Pat Duggins

Alabama, Notre Dame, Clemson, and Ohio State made the final four to compete for the college football national title. The Crimson Tide will face Notre Dame in the Rose Bowl after winning the SEC Championship over Florida. One twist for the Rose Bowl game is that it won’t be played in Pasadena. Organizers say concerns over COVID-19 prompted them to move the game to AT & T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The storied bowl game was where the Tide won its first title in 1926 and is featured in Alabama’s fight song.

NASA

The Redstone Arsenal, near Huntsville, is among six finalists to be the headquarters of the "Guardians." Astronauts of the Trump administration’s “U.S. Space Force” will be known by that name. Vice President Pence is celebrating the first birthday of the Space Force by announcing the new name of  its members. Pence made the announcement during a celebratory event Friday tracing the development of the newest branch of the U.S. Air Force. Astronaut Michael Hopkins, aboard the International Space Station, took the oath as the nation’s first “Space Force” guardian.

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A city employee of the town of Rainsville, north of Birmingham, is under suspension for allegedly making wine at the city’s sewage plant. The DeKalb County Sheriff's Office says it got an anonymous tip about an alcohol operation at a municipal building in the town of Rainsville on Thursday. Investigators then uncovered what's described as a large illegal winery inside the Rainsville Waste Water Treatment Plant. Photos released by detectives show glass containers, buckets, a fermenting rack, and other equipment commonly used to make wine at home.

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State health officials say Alabama will receive almost 20,000 fewer doses of coronavirus vaccine than initially planned. The change will reduce the number of people who can receive an initial dose of the Pfizer vaccine in coming days. Health officials say the reason for the change is unclear. The department says over four thousand people in Alabama have received the first dose of the vaccine. The second shot of the Pfizer product is designed to some three weeks after the first, with immunity expected to occur the following week.

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Alabama's unemployment rate dropped to 4.4% in November. That’s a big improvement from earlier in the year but still above last year's level. The preliminary, seasonally adjust rate for last month was better than October's revised rate of 5.7%. But it was still higher than the November 2019 level of 2.7%. A statement from the Alabama Department of Labor says the November rate represents 100,537 unemployed people. Cullman County had the state's lowest unemployment rate, 2.4%. Rural Wilcox County was worst in the state at 10.9%.

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The Alabama Department of Public Health isn’t saying which three hospitals got the first shipments of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for security sake. 

Cullman Regional Medical Center says it will start giving shots today.

Some Alabamians may soon be rolling up their sleeves for the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine.

An advisory panel for the Food and Drug Administration is recommending emergency approval for the inoculations. The agency later gave its full endorsement.

Fifteen Alabama hospitals are equipped with the supercold refrigeration units needed to store the Pfizer vaccine.

Dr. Richard Friend is Dean of the University of Alabama’s College of Community Health Sciences. He said getting the vaccine doesn’t mean just taking one shot.

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A Monday meeting may determine whether Alabama resumes allowing bars and restaurants to make curbside alcohol sales.

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Alabama has one of the highest rates of inmate deaths from COVID-19.

Forty-three inmates and two staff members have died from the coronavirus since the pandemic began. Figures compiled by The Associated Press and the Marshall Project rank Alabama prisons fourth in the U.S. for the number of COVID-19 deaths per 10,000 inmates.

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Customers of Walmart and Sam’s Club can buy home test kits for COVID-19. 

The chain, which operates close to 150 stores in Alabama, said the kits are available online. Walmart and Sam’s Club are offering the kits in partnership with a California-based company. This isn’t the home kit approved by the FDA last month.

Dr. Richard Friend is the Dean of the University of Alabama’s College of Community Health Sciences and said the concern with these kits is how test results are confirmed.

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Alabama is among the states hit hardest by food insecurity due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Associated Press analyzed data from the hunger relief group Feeding America and found that more than 20 percent of the residents of Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana are expected to be food insecure by the end of the year. That means they won’t have the ability to put food on their tables.

Alabama League of Women Voters

Outgoing Alabama U.S. Senator Doug Jones may not be moving back to our state just yet. The Democratic lawmaker is reportedly under consideration as U.S. Attorney General in the Biden administration. Jones gained a reputation as a civil rights champion when he successfully prosecuted two of the attackers in the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham. As a U.S. Senator, Jones continues to push for a follow-up COVID-19 financial aid package.

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Only about 3% of Alabamians are utilizing smartphone contact tracing technology to alert people that they may have been exposed to COVID-19. An Associated Press analysis finds that new software for alerting people about coronavirus exposure has been slow to catch on. APR reported on this technology back in June. Apple and Google developed the technology which is being praised by security experts for protecting user privacy. Still, only eighteen U.S. states and territories are making the APP available, and adoption remains low.

APR's Pat Duggins

The Crimson Tide and Florida Gators each made their case for a slot in this month’s SEC Championship game in Atlanta. Alabama quarterback Mac Jones passed for nearly four hundred yards for four touchdowns in the Tide’s 55-17 victory over defending CFP National Champions LSU in Baton Rouge.  University of Florida Quarterback Kyle Trask threw four touchdown passes in the Gators’ 31-19 win over Tennessee. The season isn’t over for either team, though. Alabama will play Arkansas next Saturday after COVID-19 delayed that game originally set for this weekend.

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