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 head of Alabama’s Democratic Party is out of the DNC. The Democratic National Committee has voted to deny seats to Chairwoman Nancy Worley and Vice Chair Randy Kelly. The two Alabama leaders missed deadlines to comply with party directives. That prompted the DNC credentials committee to recommend revoking Worley and Kelly’s credentials. The national party says the action means Worley and Kelley will no longer be recognized by the DNC. Worley says she and Kelley will remain in their state party positions.


Farmers in Alabama’s wiregrass region may be watching the weather forecast closely over the next couple of weeks. Predictions of consistent rains in the coming days could produce strong cotton and peanut crops in Alabama. On the other hand, any dry spells could mean trouble as peanuts and cotton approach their peak water needs. The Dothan Eagle reports that parts of Alabama have experienced good rainfall at times this summer. However, southeastern Alabama remains generally dry.

Randolph Co. Courthouse

Members of the Randolph County Chamber of Commerce are hosting an event to learn about human trafficking this evening.

The workshop will take place at the county courthouse in Wedowee, Ala. It will examine how people, including children, become ensnared by sex and labor traffickers.

This Saturday marks fifty years since the first manned moon landing during the NASA mission called Apollo 11. All month long, the APR news team has been looking at stories related to Astronaut Neil Armstrong’s “one small step.” APR news director Pat Duggins spent fourteen years covering the U.S. space program on NPR. During that time, Pat met people who endured sacrifices during the effort to put a man on the moon. Here’s just one of those stories…

The Mobile City Council is delaying a proposal that endorses the return of passenger rail service to the Gulf Coast through Mobile. This follows action by Governor Kay Ivey, to delay any investment from the state to restore Amtrak service following damage from Hurricane Katrina. Ivey says she needs more information before the state commits funding. Mobile city officials recently delayed a resolution that would have asked the Governor to commit state funds necessary to return Amtrak service to the region.

More details are coming out on the DOJ investigation of Alabama’s prison system. The Justice Department says the Alabama Department of Corrections turned over documents related to use of force and sexual abuse by DOC staff. The DOJ says it believes Alabama is violating the constitutional rights of male inmates by housing them in violent and unsanitary prisons. Go to to hear the newsroom’s national award-winning investigation of the prison system.

The electric company in Montgomery wants to get into the solar power business, The Alabama Municipal Electric Authority says it’s completed a deal to develop what it may be one of the largest solar power arrays in the state. Lightsource BP will finance, build and own the one hundred and twenty five million dollar solar facility and deliver energy to Montgomery under a twenty year power purchase agreement. The project will deploy more than 350,000 solar panels over 800 rural acres.

Alabama lawmakers voted Friday to create a medical marijuana commission that will make recommendations for a bill they might consider in the 2020 legislative session. This is less than what proponents of the original bill had in mind. That plan would have created a medical marijuana commission to implement and regulate the legal of cannabis. The measure that was approved yesterday was a compromise after an original medical marijuana proposal hit opposition in the House of Representatives. The study commission bill now goes to Gov. Kay Ivey.

APR's Pat Duggins

The University of Alabama's Board of Trustees may vote next week to return a record donation to South Florida attorney Hugh Culverhouse, Junior.

A University of Alabama System statement said Chancellor Finis E. St. John is recommending the board return the $21,500,000, and remove Culverhouse's name from the UA School of Law. That vote could occur during the trustees next meeting in Tuscaloosa on June 6 and 7.

APR's Pat Duggins

Quarterback Bart Starr died today at the age of eighty five. He played for the Crimson Tide back in 1952, and later for coach Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers. The Packers selected Starr out of the University of Alabama with the two hundredth pick in the 1956 draft. He led Green Bay to six division titles, five NFL championships, and wins in the first two Super Bowls. Starr’s time for Green Bay included the famed "Ice Bowl" in 1967. He had been in failing health since suffering two strokes and a heart attack in 2014.

APR's Pat Duggins

The civil rights activist at the heart of Alabama Public Radio’s award-winning documentary “The King of Alabama” has died. Theresa Burroughs, of Greensboro, died at the age of eighty nine this week. She hid Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior in her civil rights “safe house” from a KKK assassination squad two weeks before the civil rights icon was killed in Memphis. APR’s interview of Burroughs was featured in two segments of “The King of Alabama,” about how Alabama was one of the key battlegrounds for Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior’s crusade for civil rights.

APR's Pat Duggins

Research by Northern Illinois University finds that tornadoes are occurring more frequently in the South than in part of the Great Plains which has been known as "Tornado Alley," Professor Victor Gensini found that twisters are occurring more frequently in the southern version of Tornado Alley. "Dixie Alley" includes Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia. The Montgomery Advertiser reports the cause of the shift is unknown, though some theories focus on climate change, the newspaper reported.


The Alabama Public Radio news team produced his national award-winning documentary in 2016, for the fifth anniversary of the April 27, 2011 tornado outbreak. Pat D.

“Is it five years? Oh, my gosh…”

Steve Miller’s come a long way since April 27, 2011. He lives in Tuscaloosa’s Hillcrest neighborhood. His new home has lots of windows and there’s plenty of art on the walls. You might not think anything was out of the ordinary. But, the first time APR visited here, things were a lot different.

Alabama lawmakers could revisit criminal justice reform as the state grapples with prison overcrowding and a shortage of corrections officers. State Senator Cam Ward says sentencing reform will be part of a package of bills that lawmakers will consider. This legislation is in response to the threat of a Department of Justice lawsuit over conditions in Alabama prisons. Ward says other measures will seek to raise the pay of correctional officers and put additional oversight on the state prison system.

Alabama’s prison system has been in the news a lot this year, and not for good reasons. Inmate riots, allegations of mismanagement and corruption, and a failed prison building plan in the state legislature have pointed out plenty of problems. The Alabama Public Radio news team has spent the past several months examining what happens as people go into the state’s prison system and what happens when they come out.  I looked into the on-going complaints over how Alabama judges sentence people to death.  

Tuscaloosa Approves Sales Tax Hike

Apr 9, 2019

The Tuscaloosa City Council tonight approved the so-called “Elevate Tuscaloosa” tax plan Tuesday night.

The panel voted 5 to 2 to approve the 1% increase to the city sales tax. Mayor Walt Maddox proposed the increase earlier this year to generate an additional five hundred million dollars in city income over three decades. That would fund 21 projects spanning education, infrastructure, economic development and entertainment.

BEAUREGARD, AL-- The rescue and recovery efforts are just getting underway in Lee County in east Alabama after a deadly tornado. Disaster officials have said the EF-4 tornado killed at least 23 people. The storm was estimated to be a half mile wide and tore a path of destruction a mile long.

APR’s Pat Duggins sat down with one woman from the community of Beauregard who made it out alive.

“Oh boy, the wind was so high and I heard like a little roar and heard those trees popping," said Peggy Hutcheson of Beauregard.

We met her at the Red Cross Shelter at Providence Baptist Church in Opeleika. Hutcheson came in for a cup of coffee and a chance to catch her breath. She lost her home in Beauregard during Sunday’s tornado. It was the sound of the trees she remembers most.

“I don’t know, little a pin, pop, pop, pop, like firecrackers," she recalled, "and that wind was so strong. I thought that was it.”

It wasn't just the sounds Hutcheson remembers. The storm was followed by the smell of pine and earth that was torn up by the winds. Hutcheson said Sunday was also proof that no one’s luck lasts forever.

“Three years ago one came through and missed us. This time we're 3, 4 foot from it,” she said.

The sounds and smells of a tornado like the one that hit Beauregard and Lee County are nothing new to residents of Tuscaloosa like Steve Miller. He was the first person Alabama Public Radio spoke with following the tornado that tore through town on April 27, 2011.

“The sound was the loudest thing I ever heard. It was so loud, I couldn’t heard it anymore,” Miller said.

And then there was human toll. Back in 2011, the storm killed over 50 people. A man who lived near Miller found one of the victims.

“My neighbor who lived two houses went into his backyard and found a young lady wrapped around one of his trees,” Miller recalled. “She had passed away.”


Tolls will help finance a new, $2 billion bridge that will cross the Mobile River and Mobile Bay on Alabama's coast. News outlets quote officials with the bridge project as saying a toll of up six dollars will be needed to pay for the bridge. Construction is supposed to start next year, and the tolls won't start until work is done around 2025. The project will increase the capacity of Interstate 10, which crosses the Mobile River and Mobile Bay at downtown Mobile. Construction will occur over a 10-mile-long area from downtown Mobile to Daphne in Baldwin County.

APR's Pat Duggins

''I'm not confident we're going to get there," Alabama U.S. Senator Richard Shelby told reporters today, Bargainers clashed Sunday over whether to limit the number of migrants authorities can detain. This apparently tosses a new hurdle before negotiators hoping to strike a border security compromise for Congress to pass this coming week. The White House wouldn't rule out a renewed partial government shutdown if an agreement isn't reached.


Talk of greater Pentagon investment in aerospace defense could mean good times in Huntsville. Blue Origin and Aerojet Rocketdyne plan new jobs and new facilities near NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center appear to indicate billions more dollars for defense and telecommunications. reports Washington’s possible shopping list could include things like communications satellites, possibly armed satellites, and even satellite clusters that may one day become home to the internet.


Summer is basically here, and that means it’s music festival season. In Alabama, Hangout Music Festival on the Gulf Coast took place earlier this month, and Sloss Fest in Birmingham is coming up in July. APR’s Alex AuBuchon reports on one festival this weekend that might not be on your radar. It shines a spotlight on an unusual and historic instrument.

Stanford University

Please find enclosed Alabama Public Radio’s entry for the Edward R. Murrow Award for best radio series, titled “Dr. King and Alabama.” The three member Alabama Public Radio news team spent five months, with no budget, examining the connection between Alabama and Dr. Martin Luther King, junior’s fight for civil rights. King’s crusade began in 1955 with the Montgomery bus boycott, and it almost ended violently in March of 1968 in the rural town of Greensboro, two weeks before he was struck down in Memphis.

APR's Pat Duggins

Please find enclosed Alabama Public Radio’s entry for the Edward R. Murrow award for best radio feature titled “Make it like a butterfly…”

The three member Alabama Public Radio news team spent five months, with no budget, examining the connection between Alabama and Dr. Martin Luther King, junior’s fight for civil rights, fifty years after his assassination.

There are people whose careers grew in the shadow of King. Then, there’s Nelson Malden.

"Drag Queen Story Hour"

Jan 25, 2019
APR's Pat Duggins

Anchor Intro: The cities of Mobile and New Orleans now have more in common than Mardi Gras and Jazz. The public libraries in both towns now offer a unique twist on story hour for children. APR’s Pat Duggins headed to the port city for its inaugural event. He brings us the voices of protesters on both sides of the issue of inclusion for Mobile’s LGBTQ community. This story was covered as a collaboration between Alabama Public Radio and the University of Alabama's Center for Public Television, where Duggins worked alongside a student video team.

Please find enclosed Alabama Public Radio’s entry for the Edward R. Murrow award for best radio feature, titled “We remember Dr. King, too…” The three member Alabama Public Radio news team spent five months, with no budget, examining the connection between Alabama and Martin Luther King, junior’s fight for civil rights.

James Peppler

Please find enclosed Alabama Public Radio’s entry for best radio documentary, titled “The King of Alabama.” The three member Alabama Public Radio news team spent five months, with no budget, examining the connection between Alabama and Martin Luther King, junior’s fight for civil rights.

APR's Pat Duggins

All-America safety Deionte Thompson and cornerback Saivion Smith have joined a growing crowd of Alabama players leaving early for the NFL draft. Thompson announced his decision on Twitter. He's the sixth Crimson Tide underclassman to announce his decision to leave early. Thompson was a consensus All-American in his first season as the starter. He made 79 tackles and had two interceptions and four forced fumbles. Smith made his decision on Saturday.


The government shutdown has suspended federal cleanups at Superfund sites around the nation. The Associated Press reports this includes Birmingham's north side. The mostly African-American community has been forced to cope with high levels of arsenic, lead and other contaminants in the soil that the Environmental Protection Agency has been scraping up and carting away, house by house.

APR's Pat Duggins

Clemson University is the new champion of college football. The Tigers beat Alabama in a lopsided forty four to sixteen victory at Levi’s stadium in Santa Clara. Alabama Public Radio’s Pat Duggins has more from California’s Bay Area…


Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa threw for over three hundred yards and four touchdowns as the number one ranked Crimson Tide beat Oklahoma forty five to thirty four. The high-scoring Sooners reached the Orange Bowl semifinal game despite a shaky defense that was no match for Alabama's offense. Alabama led twenty eight to nothing after only seventeen minutes. Oklahoma's Heisman winner Kyler Murray had one brilliant moment when he made a perfect deep throw on the move to Charleston Rambo in the end zone for a forty nine yard score.