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.  He led the APR news team through the tornadoes of 2011.  Along 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.  Duggins’ efforts, and that of the APR news team, were twice recognized with National Sigma Delta Chi awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. The Radio Television Digital News Association also honored Pat and the team with a national Edward R. Murrow Award for overall excellence. The Alabama Associated Press also recognized APR as the "Most Outstanding News Organization" in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. And, Duggins' news series on the long-term impact of the Gulf oil spill won a national PRNDI award for best series from the Public Radio News Directors' Association, and 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 new 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 sixty awards for excellence in journalism, including a second national Sigma Delta Chi award and the international Gabriel award. Duggins is also the recipient of a Suncoast Regional Emmy.

Ways to Connect

Alabama U.S. Senator Luther Strange is far outspending his challengers in the Republican primary to fill  Jeff Sessions' old Senate seat. Session left Congress' upper chamber to be U.S. Attorney General. Fundraising reports show Strange raised nearly $3 million dollars so far in the Senate race. Strange has also benefited from high-dollar spending on his behalf by a super political action committee with ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The money has allowed Strange to dominate airwaves in the GOP battle to replace Sessions.

Descendants of African-American men in the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis study want what’s left in a $9 million dollar legal settlement. The group sent a letter to U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson asking him to withhold a decision on the money until they have time to hire a lawyer and file documents in the long-running, class-action lawsuit over the study. Supporters of the Tuskegee descendants say the money could help fund college scholarships the group provides, and members would like to develop a memorial garden dedicated to the men.

The city of Huntsville is rolling out the red carpet for what it hopes will be a new employer. The city council unanimously approved a two-part deal to bring the Blue Origin rocket engine factory to town. If built, the facility could bring with it four hundred high paying positions. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns Blue Origin. His two hundred million dollar factory could reduce America’s reliance on Russian rocket engines to blast cargo into space. Rocket builder United Launch Alliance would have to ink a deal with Blue Origin for the Huntsville factory to become a reality.

A lot of outdoor activities are scheduled for Independence Day today. The temperatures are also creeping into the nineties with lots of humidity. So, health officials say it’s important to be aware of the risk of heat illness. One of the most common conditions is heat exhaustion. That’s when you get overheated and lose electrolytes through sweating. If it goes untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, which can be fatal. Dr. Ed Geno teaches family medicine at the University of Alabama. He says people need to know what to look out when it comes to heat stroke…

A new survey shows optimism is high among Alabama business leaders. The latest Alabama Business Confidence Index shows level of sixty one point six percent. That's well above the five-year average for the third straight quarter. The report is compiled from a survey on expectations for the coming quarter. Those numbers are compared to the current quarter. The index looks at industry sales, profits, hiring, capital expenditures, plus expectations for Alabama’s economy and the nation’s. The survey is conducted by the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Alabama.

If your Fourth of July plans include a visit to Orange Beach, it’ll cost less to get there. The company that operates the Beach Express Toll bridge is lowering its prices for the summer. Toll rates for visitors to Orange Beach are dropping by seventy five cents. The toll is going from three dollars and fifty cents to two dollars and seventy five cents until after Labor Day. Orange Beach residents will see their tolls drop by a twenty five cents, down from a dollar twenty five to just a dollar. The drop is meant to help ease congestion on Alabama highway fifty nine.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill says his office will not share voter data with a Presidential commission on elections integrity. Both Republican and Democratic States are refusing to comply with the request for voter names, social security information, and voting history. The Commission grew out of questions from the Trump administration after the GOP candidate won the White House, while losing the popular vote to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. According to a Washington Post analysis, Alabama joins one third of U.S.

Thousands of Alabamians may see a difference in their credit scores starting today. Not because their finances have changed--but, rather how their scores are added up. The three major credit reporting companies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion will change which records they use. These companies will now only use public records with someone’s name, address, social security number, and date of birth. That means tax liens and civil judgments may be deleted since many of these legal actions lack all this information.

APR news director Pat Duggins represented the news team at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. as APR was presented with its 3rd national Sigma Delta Chi award from the Society of Professional Journalists. This prestigious honor is for APR's documentary "...and justice for all." Click on the "Youtube" link at the bottom of this page.

Today is the deadline for business owners in fifteen Alabama counties to get drought relief from Washington.

The U.S. Small Business Administration is taking applications for loans of up to two million dollars at four percent interest. The money would go to business owners who can prove they lost income because of the extreme drought conditions last year.

SBA spokesman Jay McKenna says these loans aren’t for ranchers or farmers, who can get help from other federal agencies.

One of two groups that sued over Alabama's legislative districts says it accepts the state's new map, although the other group opposes the new districts. The Alabama Democratic Conference notified a three-judge panel this week that the map approved by Alabama legislators complies with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The Democratic group and the Legislative Black Caucus had filed a lawsuit that brought a redistricting order. They argue African-American voters were "stacked and packed" into minority districts to limit their ability to influence elections elsewhere.

Former Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb is running for governor in 2018. Cobb made the announcement Wednesday morning. She told The Associated Press in an interview that "it's time to have a governor who cares more about people than party." She says people in the state have a yearning for courageous leadership and "it's time for honesty in every branch of our government." Cobb, who resigned from the Supreme Court in 2011, was one of the last Democrats to win statewide election in Alabama.

Alabama might allow more former felons to vote in upcoming elections. The change may come after the State approved a list of what crimes will cause someone to lose their voting rights. The State House and Senate passed legislation last month that defines a crime of "moral turpitude" as one that will cause someone to lose their voting rights. Governor Kay Ivey signed the bill aimed at ending confusion over who can, and can't vote, because of prior convictions.

Robert Melson
ADOC

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals halted this week’s scheduled execution of convicted killer Robert Bryant Melson. His defense team successfully argued against Alabama’s plans to use a sedative which will not render their client unconscious before other drugs stop his lungs and heart. A three-judge panel granted the emergency stay requested by Robert Bryant Melson. He was scheduled to be executed this Thursday for killing three Gadsden restaurant employees during a 1994 robbery.

Churches in the Selma area may soon be on the front lines to combat gang violence. District Attorney Michael Jackson is launching a program he calls "Adopt-a-Gang Member." He says the idea is to help gang members feel more worthwhile by getting them involved in churches. Jackson held a summit in Selma recently with about 50 pastors to explain the program.

Three people are back on dry land after a water rescue twelve miles south of Dauphin Island. The Coast Guard and Alabama Department of Marine Resources received a report shortly before 7:30 a.m. on Friday about a collision between a catamaran with four people aboard and a pleasure craft with three people. The pleasure craft capsized and its three passengers were thrown into the water. The Alabama marine resources boat crew recovered the three survivors and transported them to emergency medical services at Billy Goat Hole.

It looks like the 2017 legislative session ended with big news for expectant mothers in Alabama. After thirteen years of lobbying, lawmakers voted to let midwives can come out of the shadows and practice legally in the state. APR’s Pat Duggins has more as midwives wait for Governor Kay Ivey’s signature to make it all official…

Residents of Sumter County with questions about a proposed charter school can voice their questions tonight.

The Alabama Department of Education is coordinating a public hearing on the proposed new school to be held in Livingston. The University of West Alabama is hoping to open a charter school catering to children from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. The proposed school would teach science, math, technology, and art.

The Alabama House of Representatives approved a plan gto shorten death penalty appeals. Representatives voted seventy four to twenty six in favor of a bill that would pattern Alabama's process after the one used in Texas. It requires inmates to raise claims such as ineffective counsel at the same time as appeals claiming trial errors. Currently, inmates appeal trial errors first and then raise other issues. Senator Cam Ward is sponsoring the measure. He says it should drop the appeals time from about eighteen years to nine.

Law officers and school officials will be meeting in Hoover today to try to make schools safer.

The non-profit National Association of School Resource Officers is holding its first-ever national leadership summit. The conference is meant to teach lawmen and educators how to pick the best police officers to work on school campuses. NASRO says veteran officers with no disciplinary problems tend to be the best candidates.

Members of the Alabama House will resume work next week on a stalled prison construction bill. The measure would build four facilities, including a replacement for the state's troubled women's prison. The state would also lease new men's prisons built by local communities. The task in the House is to rework a plan drawn up by members of the State Senate. The state agreed to make changes at Tutwiler women’s prison after the Justice Department ruled inmates there faced an unconstitutional environment of sexual abuse and harassment.

Supporters of an Alabama death row inmate are waiting to see what the state legislature does on the subject of judicial overrides before the end of this year’s lawmaking session, as the fate of a Covington County man could hang in the balance.

Governor Kay Ivey recently signed a bill into law that stops judges from sentencing future defendants to death after the jury recommends life in prison. State Senator Hank Sanders of Selma wants more. He wrote a bill that extends the ban retroactively to people already on death row due to a judicial override.

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.  

Birmingham News/Birmingham Bar Foundation

“For me, it was just a day of resolve and resolution, and I said ‘sign me up,” says James Stewart

“Well, the first thing I tell them is that I went to jail, and they go ‘Oooh, Grandmama,” and I say well, let me explain…” recalled Eloise Gaffney.

“It was just…you knew God was on your side,” says Washington Booker. “And we knew that it didn’t matter what we were facing. You knew if God was on your side, you’d overcome it.”

Resignations continue to roll into Governor Ivey’s office. Alabama’s Secretary of Law Enforcement Stan Stabler is leaving, after taking over for former Secretary Spencer Collier. Both men were embroiled in allegations that former Governor Robert Bentley had an affair with former top aide Rebekah Caldwell Mason. Her husband, John Mason, also resigned as head of Bentley’s office of faith based initiatives. Ron Sparks is also leaving as chief of the newly eliminated office of rural development.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey has signed a bill ending the state's policy of allowing judges to override juries recommendations in death penalty cases. Alabama was the only state where a judge could sentence someone to death even when a jury recommends life imprisonment. The judicial override issue was part of Alabama Public Radio's series on judicial and prison reform. The measure passed the House last week after a rare showing of bipartisan support in the Republican-controlled legislature.

Alabama’s newest Governor is settling into office. Republican Kay Ivey became Alabama’s second female Governor after Robert Bentley resigned over an alleged sex scandal. His departure marks the end of a trio of legal tangles involving some of the most powerful people in the state. APR’s Pat Duggins has more on the national coverage that went along with it. …

If Alabama has to attract national attention, this probably isn’t what the legislature had in mind…

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley is out and Governor Kay Ivey is in. After Bentley announced his resignation ahead of an impeachment hearing, his successor would become the state's second female governor and the first to rise through the political ranks on her own. Kay Ivey is the first Republican woman elected lieutenant governor of Alabama and the first Republican to hold that office for two straight terms. Alabama's first female governor was Lurleen Wallace. She was wife of four-term Governor George C. Wallace.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley has resigned after pleading guilty to two misdemeanor charges of violating state campaign finance law. The attorney general's office announced the resignation with a plea deal. Bentley's voice began choking with emotion as he addressed reporters at the Alabama Capitol. He said he always tried to live up to the high expectations placed on the person who holds the esteemed office. He apologized for mistakes. Click here to listen to Governor Bentley's resignation address...

A state ethics panel has ruled that there is probable cause that Governor Robert Bentley violated state ethics and campaign finance law. The decision follows a sex-tinged scandal that has engulfed the Tuscaloosa lawmaker for more than a year. The Alabama Ethics Commission voted to refer the matter to the district attorney's office for possible prosecution. Governor Bentley has struggled to shake off a scandal after recordings surfaced last year of him making suggestive remarks to a female aide before his divorce.

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