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

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.


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.

The coronavirus means almost no students are allowed on campus. And, almost all classes at the University of Alabama are being moved from face-to-face instruction to online platforms like ZOOM. 

Creative media instructor Maya Champion is trying to make the best of it.



Alabama's total of Coronavirus cases is now at 783, with four deaths. That fourth fatality is in Mobile County, which has thirty nine cases of its own. Another issue connected to the COVID-19 outbreak is the mental health impact. Video of people fighting over toilet paper in supermarkets has made the news lately. Dr. Thaddeus Ulzen is the chair of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at University Medical Center in Tuscaloosa. He says sheltering at home is leaving people with the feeling that their lives are out of control and the toilet paper fights are a sign of that.


The State of Alabama is up to an updated 694 confirmed cases of Coronavirus, and three deaths linked to the illness. While the case load increases, the University of Alabama in Birmingham is looking for a few good COVID-19 patients. The school is taking part in a study that may lead to a treatment for Coronavirus. UAB is one of seventy five participants in a test of drug called Remdesivir. Dr. Paul Goepfert is leading the Birmingham research team. He says four hundred test subjects are being sought for a step by step process.


Updated at 9 p.m.

The Alabama Department of Public Health and Governor Kay Ivey have confirmed Alabama's first COVID-19 related death. 

"We express our deepest sympathy to the family and loved ones of the patient who died, as well as to the families of everyone who has been affected by this outbreak," State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said. "The health of our residents and the community is our greatest priority, and we will continue working together to care for the patients, protect the safety of health care workers, and protect the people in our state."



Alabama's caseload of Coronavirus patients has grown to 283. Healthcare providers are looking at innovative ways to get patients in touch with their doctors without a face to visit that might spread the illness. Tuscaloosa’s University Medical Center at the University of Alabama is now using the FACETIME video feature on mobile phones for office visits. Dr. Thomas Weida practices family medicine at UMC.


Alabama health officials say the State has two hundred and forty two (updated) confirmed cases of Coronavirus. Governor Kay Ivey is asking the Alabama National Guard be ready to be called up on "as needed" basis. This order includes one hundred troops. The Guard would step, Ivey says, if healthcare providers or first responders need support.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey says she has no plans to issue a statewide "shelter in place" order to combat the new Coronavirus, despite a similar action by the City of Birmingham. The city council voted to impose the order until April third. Mayor Randall Woodfin cited an increase of COVID-19 cases in the “Magic City,” rising to 91, for prompting the City’s action.

Alabama Health officials expect Gulf coast COVID caseload to get bigger

Mar 24, 2020

The Alabama Department of Public Health now says the State has 242 (updated) confirmed cases of Coronavirus. Most are in Jefferson, Madison, and Shelby Counties. However, Alabama health officials expect an increase in the number of Coronavirus cases along the State’s Gulf coast. Mobile County has three testing sites and two confirmed COVID-19 patients. Two more testing are expected for Baldwin County which has three cases. APR’s Gulf Coast reporter Guy Busby spoke with Baldwin County Commission Chair Billie Jo Underwood. She says her community is gearing up to fight the Coronavirus.


Alabama now has two hundred and forty two (updated) confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The Alabama Department of Public Health will be holding a meeting on who should be tested for COVID-19. The discussion with healthcare providers may result in adjusting the guidelines for who should undergo a test for the illness. The State changed its process three weeks ago, so any doctor could ask for a test. Dr. Scott Harris is Alabama’s State Health Officer. He says the old system based the testing decision on CDC regulations.


Alabama is reporting three additional cases of the new Coronavirus, bringing the State's total to 196 (updated.)  This word comes as another state vehicle factory prepares to close and officials try to clarify new rules limiting contact between people. State health officials say Alabama's total number of confirmed cases rose to 106 Friday, up from 78 a day earlier. Mercedes-Benz says it's temporarily closing its plant near Tuscaloosa starting next week. And the governor's office says a new rule limiting gatherings to 25 people or less doesn't apply to work-related groups.

Alabama Gulf coast gears up to deal with the Coronavirus

Mar 20, 2020

Alabama's caseload of Coronavirus now stands at 78. Governor Kay Ivey’s action to close Alabama beaches follows similar action by the City of Gulf Shores. The State’s biggest beachside community ordered its beaches closed yesterday to hold off the spread of the Coronavirus. The move by Gulf Shores to close its beaches was quickly followed by Orange Beach and Dauphin Island. The Baldwin County Commission voted to also close county access.

James Peppler

As Alabama health officials deal with seventy eight confirmed cases of the Coronavirus in the State, a new online project seeks to bring the lessons of the U.S. civil rights movement to students. The Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University unveiled Selma Online this month​. It's a free, online teaching platform that aims to transform how the civil rights movement is taught in middle and high schools.


Alabama has ordered the closures of day cares, beaches and on-site dining in restaurants as the state tries to contain the spread of the Coronavirus. Gov. Kay Ivey announced the order, which expands an order to all sixty-seven counties that had previously been in place for six counties surrounding Birmingham. The order lasts until April fifth. Alabama's largest coastal city, Gulf Shores, had already announced the closure of public beaches because throngs of young people on spring break were ignoring rules meant to stem the spread of the new coronavirus.


Alabama is postponing its Republican U.S. Senate runoff race between Jeff Sessions and former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville because of the Coronavirus. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey says the runoff is being rescheduled to July 14th because it's too risky for voters to go to the polls and stand in line right now. The winner will face Democratic U.S. Sen. Doug Jones in November. The Hyundai automobile plant in Montgomery is closed after a worker tested positive for the Coronavirus.


Alabama health officials now confirm 196 (updated) cases of the Coronavirus in the state. A concern was also raised about blood shortages. The American Red Cross has cancelled close to two thousand blood drives. This has prompted the State to ask potentials donors to keep donating, and that blood banks sanitize their facilities. Health officials in Alabama are also making suggestions on what to do if someone thinks they have the Coronavirus. The illness has symptoms similar to the flu, including fever, body aches, and nausea. Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo* is director of infectious diseases at UAB.


Please find enclosed Alabama Public Radio’s entry for the PMJA Award for Best Radio Series, titled “Alabama Human Trafficking.” The two member Alabama Public Radio news team spent fourteen months and three thousand miles on the road, with no budget, investigating the trafficking issue in Alabama. It all began with a number.



Medical marijuana legislation that would allow people to be prescribed marijuana for fifteen medical conditions, is headed to its first vote in the Alabama Legislature. The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a public hearing on the bill Wednesday and could vote the same day. The bill by Republican Senator Tim Melson would allow people to be prescribed medical marijuana for certain conditions, including cancer, anxiety and chronic pain, and to purchase cannabis products at a dispensary licensed by the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission.