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

No  more "A's," or "F's," for Alabama schools, at least for now. The Alabama Board of Education is postponing plans to assign schools letter grades. Board members tabled a vote on rules pertaining to the proposed new report cards. The vote came after several board members raised skepticism over the plans and suggested additional conversations with lawmakers and new education Superintendent Michael Sentance.  Alabama lawmakers in 2012 approved legislation requiring the development of the A-F report cards. The first report cards were scheduled for December.

Two hundred and seventy-eight new lawyers will join the Alabama Bar Association tomorrow morning. The new attorneys will be sworn in at the Bar’s fall admission ceremony. The Young Lawyer’s Section of the Bar will host the event. The ceremony will be a ceremonial session of the State Supreme Court. Acting Chief Justice Lyn Stewart will administer the oath to the new members. Justin Aday is the Director of Admissions for the Alabama State Bar. He says the ceremony is more sentimental than official.

Moody's Investor Services has raised its outlook on Mobile from negative to stable. It's a move that Mayor Sandy Stimpson says will help ongoing efforts to put the city on a more solid financial footing. Mobile remains at an Aa2 credit rating, but Stimpson says the change in outlook will have real benefits. The Mayor says the city is getting ready to go back into the market to refinance some existing debt and the timing of the Moody report was perfect.


Wildfires are burning across Alabama as drought conditions worsen. Forecasters say there isn't enough rain in the forecast to lessen the threat anytime soon. The Alabama Forestry Commission reported that about 70 blazes burned around 730 acres of land on Sunday alone. The situation is worse in north Alabama, where drought conditions are most severe. The state issued a fire danger warning for 46 of Alabama's 67 counties last week, and officials said it will continue until rain returns to the state.

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…

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.  

Election ballots in Alabama will be reprinted after the most recent version left out wording of a constitutional amendment. The Montgomery Advertiser reports the Secretary of State's office will reprint close to three million ballots from Alabama's election ballots in November. The original ballot left off language that prevented the legislature from using any money for the upkeep of the park system for other purposes.

The Alabama Supreme Court is upholding the state’s controversial death penalty sentencing structure. This policy was the subject of parts one and three of Alabama Public Radio’s on-going series on justice reform and prison reform. At issue, is a statute that allows Alabama judges to overrule a jury’s recommendation of life in prison in favor of the death penalty. Alabama is the State that does this after Florida’s policy was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, and Delaware declared its own statute to be unconstitutional.

Alabama’s Court of the Judiciary is still weighing evidence on the fate of suspended Chief Justice Roy Moore. The panel has ten days to make a decision on a request to remove Moore from office. The Judicial Inquiry Commission wants Moore off the bench. The board says Moore urged the state’s county probate judges to defy federal court rulings on gay marriage. Moore calls the charge "ridiculous." He was removed from office in 2003 for disobeying a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building.

Ninety years after its last use, Alabama’s first capitol building is now open for visitors. The Alabama Historical Commission and The University of Alabama are hosting an “Artifact Day” at Old Cahawba tomorrow. The event will allow the public to work alongside professional researchers to learn more about the site of Alabama’s first state house. Site Director Linda Derry says when the capitol building was uncovered, Alabamians deserved a chance to learn from it.

Movie fans are about to get to see Hollywood’s take on the 2010 Gulf oil spill. The film centers on the rig explosion on the Deep Water Horizon platform. Family members of the eleven workers who were killed in the incident hope the movie will remind people about the human toll of the disaster. Critics believe the environmental damage from spill unjustly overshadowed the workers' deaths. Go to and you can click on our award winning series oil and water on the long term impact.

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.


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.

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 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.


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…