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

The city of Montgomery continues its observance of the 65th anniversary of the arrest of Rosa Parks with a series of events. That includes today, which marks 65 years since the start of the Montgomery Bus Boycott which was prompted by Parks’ arrest. The “Get off the Bus” campaign is sponsoring the “BBQ and Brushes Block Party” today to help revitalize Montgomery’s art and business district. The Rosa Parks Museum is also offering free admission today. A local historical scavenger hunt continues over the weekend. Alabama Public Radio interviewed Dr.


The University of Alabama will resume exit testing for students starting today. Healthcare workers provided free tests for 10 days prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. The goal was to help prevent students from carrying COVID-19 home to their families. A new round of exit tests will be given starting today at the East Campus Storm Shelter.

Dr. Karen Burgess is interim medical director at the UA student health center. She said people are learning how to avoid doing things that spreads the virus.


The Alabama prison system is planning to restore inmate family visits with a video system. The change is being prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. State corrections officials say they'll roll out the new system next month, which uses video kiosks by appointment. Alabama’s response to the coronavirus in its prisons has drawn criticism. The Southern Poverty Law Center complains that the state has over two hundred elderly inmates who are at a greater risk from COVID-19. The SPLC reiterated its response following last month’s death of sixty seven year old Willie Collins.


Rainy today with up to a 100% percent chance statewide. Upper fifties for the high along the Tennessee Valley, with mid-sixties over much of the rest of the state. Lows in the upper thirties. Rain tapers off a bit for Monday.


Alabama healthcare providers are bracing for a post-holiday surge in coronavirus cases. Infections were already rising before Thanksgiving gatherings. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says symptoms of the coronavirus can appear anywhere from two to fourteen days after exposure. Healthcare providers voiced their concerns on APR over how family Thanksgiving gatherings could turn into COVID super spreader events. APR listeners heard suggestions including having one person in the kitchen serving dinner to limit possible exposure to the virus. Former state health official Dr.


Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban will likely miss this Saturday’s Iron Bowl game against Auburn after testing positive for COVID-19. The University announced the coach’s coronavirus test results today. The CDC recommends that COVID patients isolate for up to 14 days. The annual Iron Bowl game is Saturday. Saban had what turned out to be false positive back in mid-October. Team physician Dr. Jimmy Robinson says the coach’s latest situation appears to be different since he’s showing mild symptoms.


It looks like concern over COVID-19 is impacting holiday travel. The forecast from Triple-A says the number of Americans driving over Thanksgiving will drop by ten percent compared to last year. Healthcare providers also continue warning those who hit the road for the holiday to exercise caution. Dr. Thomas Weide practices at University Medical Center in Tuscaloosa. He says wearing a mask, social distancing, and eating outdoors are good ways to avoid giving the coronavirus to your family.


News outlets are quoting an Associated Press investigation that may point to fake answers on U.S. Census forms in Alabama. The AP obtained text messages from U.S. Census Bureau supervisor in Alabama telling workers how to falsify answers from households answer the once-in-a-decade head count. The text messages are from last month. They reportedly stem from the Bureau’s effort to finish the census count households where it couldn’t be established who lived there after two visits.


Students at the University of Alabama have a deadline for on-campus exit testing before Thanksgiving. Healthcare providers will administer COVID-19 tests today from 8 a.m. to five p.m. at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa. Tests will be also be given tomorrow from nine a.m. to noon. One hundred and fifty nine students tested positive at all three UA campuses in Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, and Huntsville earlier this month. Dr. Karen Burgess is the interim medical director of the UA student health center. She says everyone needs to get past COVID fatigue and do the right thing.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall is challenging Madison County’s decision to remove a Confederate soldier statue at its courthouse. The AG is arguing the statue’s movement to a Huntsville cemetery violates a 2017 state law called the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act. An Alabama judge stayed the law that protects Confederate monuments after Birmingham put plywood around a statue. The Alabama Supreme Court later stayed that lower court order. The Madison County Commission voted in October to move the monument to Maple Hill Cemetery in Huntsville where Confederate soldiers are buried.


Alabama schoolchildren will return to face-to-face instruction after the Thanksgiving. That’s the preference of the state’s school superintendent. Eric Mackey position comes despite a 50% surge in COVID-19 cases in the state’s schools between November 6th and the 13th. Alabama’s coronavirus outbreak is surging, with the State Hospital Association declaring the pandemic to be “out of control.” main in-person. Mackey says individual schools could switch to all virtual learning as a last resort. This happened temporarily in Alexander City and Marshall County.

APR's Pat Duggins

Fans of the Crimson Tide are planning to see the team play for the first time in two weeks tomorrow.

Alabama is scheduled to play the Kentucky Wildcats after the coronavirus put the Tide’s schedule in turmoil. Last week’s game against LSU was cancelled after an undisclosed number of players for the Tigers tested positive for COVID-19. Alabama was just coming off a bye-week where the team didn’t play.

Head coach Nick Saban said the issue is keeping his players psychologically prepared.


A report from Johns Hopkins is just the latest dose of sobering news regarding the spread of the coronavirus in Alabama. The new statistics say one out of every 342 Alabamians tested positive for the virus last week. That’s a jump of 50% in new COVID cases during the past two weeks. The president of the Alabama Hospital Association says the illness is "out of control" in the state. The main concern appears to be large holiday gatherings, which may spread the virus even more and result in a wave of illness that won't diminish for weeks.

The New York Times and Washington Post are among the newspapers declaring that Democrat Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump to become the 46th president of the United States. Biden vanquished his Republican foe after a campaign as bitter and divisive as Trump's own presidential term. Victories in "blue wall" northern industrial states propelled Biden to the White House, where he'll confront America's deep health, economic and social ills. A win in Pennsylvania sealed his victory after more than three tension-filled days of counting votes.


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.


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.