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


One year after an EF-4 tornado struck Tuscaloosa, the community is still recovering. The Alabama Public Radio news team followed survivors and local officials in the months after the storm to investigate the aftermath. The result is the documentary “Winds of Change.” Some residents are still in temporary housing or are in the process of rebuilding.


On the eve of the 2012 BCS College Football championship game in New Orleans, a group of Alabamians in their early forties looked back on a similar accomplishment. 2012 was the twentieth anniversary of the Crimson Tide’s title winning season under Coach Gene Stallings. APR’s Pat Duggins spoke with fans of the 1992 Alabama team, as well as former players Prince Wimbley, Martin Houston, and Dennis Deason.


JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) — It appeared Bono and arachnids didn't mix when his "Spider-Man" musical had a rough Broadway run, but that didn't keep a biologist from naming an actual spider species after the U2 singer. Jason Bond of Alabama's Auburn University has identified 33 new species of trapdoor spider, including three of them in the California desert at Joshua Tree National Park.

Fans of the Alabama Crimson Tide lined University Boulevard in Tuscaloosa for a parade to honor the team for its 42-14 victory over Notre Dame in the BCS national football championship. Members of the team walked along the parade route shaking hands with well-wishers and tossing out small souvenir footballs. One of the few players who rode included Jalston Fowler, who injured his knee during the Tide’s game against Western Kentucky in September. Saban was joined by his wife Terry, University of Alabama President Judy Bonner, and Athletic Director Mal Moore before the crowd.

University of Alabama

Today marks fifty years since the inauguration of Alabama Governor George Wallace. His speech featuring the phrase “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever,” is considered one of the pivotal moments of the civil rights movement in 1963. That year also saw the bombing at the 16th Street Baptist church in Birmingham and the “stand at the schoolhouse door” in Tuscaloosa. Alabama Public Radio’s Pat Duggins looks back at Wallace’s 1963 inaugural to produce this sound portrait. Observers note that Wallace had a change of heart later in his life and renounced racism.


“Obviously, we wish the night could have ended in a different way” said Notre Dame star player Manti T’eo. “But, the season, the year, my career here, I’m been truly blessed by being at Notre Dame” “What the players accomplished, what the coaches accomplished, I think it’s really special,” said Alabama Coach Nick Saban. “I think when I’m sitting on the side of the hill watching the stream go by, I might even figure it out even more.” These are two very different perspectives of the same game in Miami.


The University of Alabama Crimson Tide and Notre square off for the BCS College Football Championship Monday night at Sun Life Stadium in Miami. Both teams have stories programs, with Knute Rockne and Ara Parseghian for the Fighting Irish, and Alabama with Bear Bryant and Nick Saban. However, both Saban and Notre Dame’s current coach Brian Kelly, point out that it will be a group of college-aged young people who will put on the pads and play before an international spotlight.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — A member of Wernher von Braun's rocketry team in Alabama has died. NASA says Jesco von Puttkamer died Thursday after a brief illness. He was 79. Von Puttkamer moved to Huntsville in 1962 and worked with von Braun at the Marshall Space Flight Center. He was an engineer. Von Puttkamer transferred to NASA Headquarters in Washington in 1974. He most recently worked as a technical manager for the International Space Station. Von Puttkamer is survived by his wife, Ursula.


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A hospital operated by Jefferson County has announced 200 employees — including the CEO — will be laid off beginning Dec. 31. Officials say Cooper Green Mercy Hospital is downsizing as the facility transitions to an urgent and primary care center. The hospital announced the layoffs in a letter Thursday. Officials say medical clerks, staff nurses, patient care technicians and others will be placed on administrative leave without pay. The hospital currently operates as a general care center and is ending inpatient and emergency room services.


MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Authorities say fierce thunderstorms knocked out power to 18,000 customers across Alabama and peeled the roofs from buildings in the Mobile area. Alabama Power spokeswoman Keisa Sharpe-Johnson says the outages were spread across the state, with about 8,600 in the hard-hit Mobile area. About 7,900 outages were in the western part of the state, which included Tuscaloosa, Jasper and Haleyville.


Restaurants come and go these days. But, in Birmingham, Highlands Bar & Grill just turned thirty years old. It’s here that veteran chef Frank Stitt won the prestigious James Beard award for best southern chef in the year 2000. But, don’t talk to him about hitting the three decade mark. “I don’t really, kind of knowledge or comprehend this ten year, twenty year, thirty year,” says Stitt. “I just feel engaged day to day.” But, people inside and outside of the restaurant industry say Stitt influence is widespread.

Editor's note: Alabama Public Radio will take NPR's live coverage following the Connecticut school shooting at 1 pm. Pat Duggins News Director NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — An official with knowledge of a shooting at a Connecticut elementary school says 27 people are dead, including 18 children. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is still under way. State police Lt. Paul Vance says only that staff and students at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown are among the victims. He says the shooter was dead in the school.

Editor's Note: APR news will be tweeting updates of the Iron Bowl from Bryant Denny Stadium.

University of Alabama

University of Alabama President Guy Bailey today announced that he will be leaving his post at the school, citing family reasons. Dr. Bailey asssumed leadership of the University of Alabama in early September, after the U of A Board of Trustees approved his hiring unanimously back in July. University of Alabama President Guy Bailey’s statement: Today I have notified Chancellor Witt that I am stepping down as President of The University of Alabama.


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A study show that 44 percent of Alabama's college graduating class of 2011 finished with debt and the average amount was more than $25,000. reports the Alabama figure was below the national average of $26,600. The study by the Project on Student Debt found that the most indebted Alabama students graduated from Alabama A&M. Ninety-five percent of the Class of 2011 had debt, and the average was slightly more than $33,000. At Auburn University, 47 percent of the graduates had debt, and the average was nearly $24,800.


MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A new program of the National Governors Association aimed at stopping prescription drug abuse is meeting in Montgomery. Gov. Robert Bentley is co-chairman of the NGA's Prescription Drug Abuse Reduction Policy Academy, and he will address its opening session Monday in Montgomery. The academy is spending a year looking at how to reduce prescription drug abuse in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Kentucky, New Mexico, Oregon and Virginia.


APR—The Alabama Public Radio news team was honored with the National Edward R. Murrow Award for overall excellence. Elizabeth Brock, director of the Center for Public Television and Radio and APR news director Pat Duggins accepted the honor on behalf of the news department at the Radio Television Digital News Association banquet in New York City.

University of Alabama

The new president of the University of Alabama is settling in. Dr. Guy Bailey officially took over as leader of the Tuscaloosa campus. Bigger enrollment and more research are just two of his goals. Dr. Bailey says the University’s engineering and science departments may soon be the focus of greater research. The new president adds that the liberal arts could shine as well… “We’ve always had a great creative writing program here." says Bailey. "The English program is good…after all, it produced me!


The approach of Isaac put much of the northern Gulf coast on alert. Here in Alabama, the major concern was tropical storm force winds, the threat of spin up tornadoes, and flooding from storm surge. Homeowners in flood prone areas along Mobile Bay were placed under a voluntary evacuation order. But, not all residents with beach front property were able to move. Some were dug in…literally.


The executive board of Alabama Public Television voted unanimously to hire WVUA-TV General Manager Roy Clem as its new executive director. The selection follows the controversial firing of former APT Chief Allan Pizzato and one of his lieutenants. The oustre is reportedly due to disagreement between Pizzato and members of the APT board on the airing of conservative christian programming. Mr. Pizzato is suing the board on the grounds that his firing was in violation of state law.


Alabama Public Radio News Director Pat Duggins spoke with host Sacha Pfeiffer on NPR station WBUR's nationally broadcast program "Here & Now" about the upcoming landing of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover. Duggins covered NASA for NPR for 25 years, authored the book "Trailblazing Mars," and writes about space for the magazine "Modern Weekly" in China.

APR News

The Alabama Public Radio news team collected a national Sigma Delta Chi award at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. for best breaking news coverage of the Tuscaloosa tornado. News Director Pat Duggins was joined at the podium by reporters Ryan Vasquez, Maggie Martin and Stan Ingold for the presentation of the bronze medallion.

Alabama Public radio news director Pat Duggins reports on today's vote by the University of Alabama board of trustees to name Dr. Guy Bailey, of Texas Tech, as UA's new president. The appointment is a homecoming for Dr. Bailey, who earned a bachelors degree in Tuscaloosa, and then a masters in 1974.

All week long on Alabama Public Radio, the news department is revisiting the people we heard from in the hours and days following the April 27th tornadoes that struck the state a year ago. Last night, the Tuscaloosa city council approved rezoning in the areas hit hard by the storm. Pending a final vote, this will set the city's rebuilding plan into full motion. APR's Pat Duggins takes us to the small town in Kansas which helped pioneer the "green" rebuilding ideas that may take root here.

This week marks one year since the tornadoes that tore through Alabama, killing over two hundred people and disrupting the lives of thousands of families. All week long on Alabama Public Radio, we'll revisit many of the people and places you heard from in the hours and days following the storm. APR news director Pat Duggins has this preview...