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’s embattled Chief Justice Roy Moore will be back in court today-- as a defendant. Moore is facing judicial ethics charges that could result in his removal from the Alabama Supreme Court. State prosecutors say in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, Moore issued an administrative order telling the state’s probate judges that Alabama’s ban on gay marriage remained in effect. The Southern Poverty Law Center filed the ethics complaints against Moore.

A three year old legal challenge over a Tuscaloosa City School Board Race appears to be over. Circuit judge Jim Roberts dismissed Kelly Horwitz’ case over her failed bid for re-election in August 2013. Horwitz claimed her opponent Cason Kirby won the vote with ballots that were cast illegally. The judge ruled there wasn’t enough testimony from the one hundred and fifty nine voters in question to change the results of the race.

NPR

Join Alabama Public Radio for "live" coverage of each of the Presidential debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Click below for selections of APR's award-winning coverage of the campaign here in Alabama.

Alabama leads the nation in prescription opioid painkiller use, and politics may be one reason. Manufacturers and their allies have hired an average of eighteen lobbyists in Alabama each year since 2006. A joint investigation by The Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity found that the organizations spent $880 million and hired an annual average of 1,350 lobbyists in state capitals around the country from 2006 through 2015. The organizations' lobbying in Alabama ranked 33rd in the country when drug makers' lobbying hires are compared to all lobbying activity.

Colonial Pipeline says it will construct a temporary pipeline that will bypass a leaking section of its main gasoline pipeline in Shelby County. The company gave no timetable on when the project will be completed or what path the temporary bypass will take. Colonial admits the leak from its primary line leaked up to three sixty thousand gallons of gasoline near the town of Helena. The Environmental Protection Agency and state environmental officials had no initial comment on the possible impact of the spill on this rural region of Alabama.

Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn says an inmate serving twenty years for robbery will be prosecuted in connection with the stabbing at Holman Prison in Atmore. Authorities say corrections officer Kenneth Bettis died Friday after being stabbed on September first. The attack occurred at Holman prison, which has been the site of multiple outbreaks of sporadic violence. Critics blame acts of violence on Alabama’s prison jail overcrowding problem.

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 report on one state where prison reform appears to be working…

Fuel truck drivers may be working extra hours in the coming days. The governors of Alabama and Georgia have lifted restrictions on the number of hours these drivers can work. Robert Bentley and Nathan Deal hope to prevent gasoline shortages after the shutdown of a leaking pipeline in rural Alabama. Bentley's order remains in place for thirty days unless he cancels it. Governor Deal issued seven day order. Governors can suspend federal regulations during emergencies. Colonial Pipeline has said most of the leaked gasoline is contained in a retention pond near the city of Helena.

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. This week, I examine what the State of Alabama does when people are convicted of crimes they didn’t do. Critics say, not much…

A Tuscaloosa County grand jury voted to indict a former NASA astronaut for murder. The panel charged James Halsell in an early morning traffic accident that killed two little girls on Highway eighty two back in June. APR Pat Duggins has more on the indictment and what’s next for the veteran Space Shuttle commander…

An Alabama prison inmate is dead following an attack at the Elmore Correctional Facility. The prison is on lockdown after an inmate was stabbed to death. The Department of Corrections says twenty four year-old Davieon Cotez Williams was stabbed multiple times during fight yesterday afternoon. Prison officials say another inmate is a suspect. Critics of Alabama’s prison system blame overcrowding for violence like this. APR’s MacKenzie Bates will look into these complaints tomorrow as part of APR on-going series on prison reform and justice reform.

Can a member of the Alabama Public Service Commission make money off a solar power deal? That’s the question going back to a state ethics panel. PSC Commissioner Chip Beeker wants to lease land to a solar energy company that in turn would sell electricity back to a power company regulated by the PSC. Beeker is the one asking the ethics board to take up the issue again. The Alabama Ethics Commission deadlocked on the matter this month. The ethics panel listed the opinion on today’s agenda. However, a lawyer representing Beeker says the panel may reconsider.

There will be no public vote on an Alabama lottery. APR’s Pat Duggins reports time is also running out for lawmakers to make up for a miscarriage of justice when they resume a special session next week.

State Senator Paul Bussman submitted a bill on the case of Anthony Ray Hinton. He spent thirty years in prison after being falsely convicted in a double murder in 1985.

Bussman wants to compensate Hinton through Alabama’s Wrongful Incarceration Act. The measure states that prison exonerees can get fifty thousand dollars for each year of wrongful imprisonment.

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.  

Alabama voters won’t be casting ballots on a state lottery this November. But, there will be a proposed constitutional amendment to keep an estimated six hundred local laws from being declared null and void. A lawsuit is challenging House procedures which could make lawmakers' “yes” votes to allow voters to decide on a list of local ballot measures unconstitutional. If the legal challenge is successful, these local laws might be ruled invalid even if voters approved them. Senator Cam Ward says the measures possibly at risk include one in Florence allowing Sunday alcohol sales.

APR airs the first part of our ongoing series on prison and justice reform tomorrow. I'll report on how Alabama is the only U.S. state that allows judges to overrule a jury's recommendation of life in prison, and go for the death penalty. Click here for Birmingham attorney Richard Jaffe. He represented Randall Padgett, whose judge overrode the jury. Padgett was later exonerated. Pat D.

http://goo.gl/EPdxzg

APR

We’re looking back on the tornadoes that hit the state five years ago on April 27, 2011. Twelve percent of Tuscaloosa was destroyed, over fifty people were killed, and countless lives were changed forever. The very first victim of the tornado APR met face to face was Steve Miller. Now, five years later, I checked in to see how Miller is doing…

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.” Stewart, Gaffney, and Booker are all in their early sixties. They’re all from Birmingham. They’re all African American. And fifty years ago, they made national news.

Birmingham News/Birmingham Bar Foundation

“Let me know at the start of this conversation that I have never been a civil rights activist of any kind,” says former Birmingham radio disc jockey Shelley Stewart. “I want to make that perfectly clear.” The teenagers who took part in the 1963 children’s march see it differently They say they relied on signals and code words from Stewart’s radio show to know when the protest would begin. And even Shelley admits he knew firsthand what school kids, both black and white, could do in the race of racism. When he wasn’t on the air, Shelley the playboy played records at dance parties.

Birmingham News/Birmingham Bar Foundation

Birmingham area disc jockey Shelley the Playboy may have signaled the start of the children’s march in 1963, but he didn’t organize it. The credit goes to a lieutenant of Dr. Martin Luther King, the reverend James Bevel. One of the teenagers he inspired was James Stewart… “He wore one of the blue jeans suits, and had badges from everybody, and pins all over, and he was baldheaded and wore this skull cap,” Stewart remembered, “And he’s the one who was the kids’ ‘pied piper,’ he talked to us about getting involved.

Birmingham News/Birmingham Bar Foundation

"Jail was like hell. It was four days of really hell..."

James Stewart of Birmingham was just a teenager on April 2, 1963. He took part in the Children’s March, and he was one of the first to arrested and jailed…

What did you do during your last trip to summer camp? Maybe a little canoeing or making s’mores around the campfire? Some youngsters visiting Montgomery have something else in mind. They’re trading arts and crafts for performing classic characters like Lady MacBeth and Hamlet. Meet Camp Shakespeare Extreme.

“Oh, gentle Romeo, if thou dost love, pronounce it faithfully. Or, if thou thinkst I am too quickly won, I’ll frown and say thee ‘nay,’ so thou wilt woo…” says sixteen year old Meredith from Helena, Alabama.

All this week on Alabama Public Radio, we’re looking back on the tornadoes that hit Alabama on April 27, 2011. In Tuscaloosa, twelve percent of the city was destroyed and fifty four people were killed. The home of the University of Alabama wasn’t the only community hit with a life altering storm that year. And, how Tuscaloosa went about the process of rebuilding was considered controversial. Five years later, here's  a report card in this "tale of two cities…"

“At that point, we understood this was going to be something like we’ve never seen in the history of our city.”

"Sounds of Selma"

Aug 3, 2016
APR

Thousands of people crowded the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma yesterday to remember what became known as “bloody Sunday.” Voting marchers in 1965 were attacked by State Troopers and a Sheriff’s posse armed with clubs and tear gas. The weekend observance was attended by President Obama and the children of Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior. APR news director Pat Duggins and reporter Stan Ingold teamed up to bring us this audio postcard…

This weekend, the city of Selma will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the civil rights event known as “bloody Sunday.” In 1965, sheriff deputies and state troopers attacked African American protesters during a voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery. The violence is etched into world history, but it’s not the first time this city has seen bloodshed  nor was 1965 the city's first "march to freedom."

Alabama doctors will be paid less for handling certain cases for the state’s Medicaid agency. As of August 1st, Alabama will no longer compensate doctors for what are known as “enhanced payments” for specific primary care visits and services. The higher than usual fees were paid for by the Federal Affordable Care Act in 2013 and 2014. Alabama chose to continue the higher payments in 2015, but elected to cancel them. The state’s Medicaid Agency is in the midst of what Governor Robert Bentley is calling a budget crisis.

TVA is closing and capping 10 coal ash ponds at power plants in Tennessee and Alabama, against the urging of environmentalists who want the ash dug up and removed. TVA issued its decision on Friday, affirming plans to keep the coal ash at six fossil plants where the ash was dumped over the past half century. TVA says the best, fastest and cheapest method of cleaning up the ponds is to close them and put a cap on the wastes to prevent leakage.

A judge dismissed Alabama's lawsuit against the federal government over refugee placement. U.S. Magistrate Judge John Ott rejected Alabama's claim that federal officials are not consulting with states on refugee placement. The dismissal comes a month after a judge threw out a similar Texas lawsuit, ruling that states had no authority over resettlements that are handled by the federal government. Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley filed the lawsuit in January. The state asked the judge to block any refugee settlement unless the state was given security and medical information on each refugee.

News Reports: Baton Rouge shooter a UA student

Jul 17, 2016

A suspect in the killing of three Baton Rouge police officers was reportedly a student at the University of Alabama. Lawmen shot Gavin Long to death following an ambush.  Multiple news reports are quoting the University of Alabama’s website that Long was on the Dean’s list at the Tuscaloosa campus. The suspect was reportedly enrolled at the Tuscaloosa campus for one semester in 2012. Three others police officers were wounded in the attack, one critically. The Associated Press reports two other "persons of interest" are being questioned.

Tuscaloosa WBC Boxing Champion Deontay Wilder retained his title with a technical knockout in the eighth round against Chris Arreola. The hometown boxer fought at least half of last night's bout with a broken right hand and a torn right bicep, and still won the match by TKO . Arreloa's corner stopped the fight after the challenger's left eye appeared swollen shut, and he had been knocked down in the fourth round. Wilder visibly winced in pain as trainer Jay Deas removed his right glove during a post-fight interview and applied an ice bag to the boxer's right bicep.

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