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

The jury in the ethics trial of Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard will show up to hear evidence today. Hubbard faces twenty three counts of misusing his public office for personal gain. Prosecutors say Hubbard used both his office and past position as chairman of the Alabama GOP to solicit business for himself and his companies. Conviction on even one would result in his ouster as speaker of the state House.

An Alabama teenager set a Florida state record for catching the biggest flathead catfish. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says 13-year-old Charles Patchen of Gordon, Alabama, caught a nearly sixty four pound flathead. Patchen pulled in the enormous catfish from the Chattahoochee River in Jackson County. It took Patchen nearly two hours to land the big fish. The fish needed to be rolled into the boat because it was too large for the net. The previous certified state record flathead catfish weighed just over fifty five pounds and was caught on the Yellow River in 2011.

Meet MARTE 3.0

May 15, 2016

A team of University of Alabama engineering students is defending its national championship, not in football, but in a NASA space mining robot competition. MARTE 3.0 will compete against close to fifty other entries from universities. The robot that digs the most simulated moon dirt wins. Click on the second "YouTube" link...

Governor Robert Bentley’s prison building plan isn’t a done deal just yet. The eight hundred million dollar proposal is undergoing length debate in the State House. Supporters say the building project would solve safety and financial problems, while critics say it will make matters worse. Bentley wants to build three new mega-prisons for men that would hold four thousand inmates each. There would also be a new prison for women. Lawmakers’ complaints include the economic impact of counties that lose prisons.

A House committee has approved a watered-down payday lending bill. A-P-R’s Stan Ingold has more…

A state ban on a commonly used abortion procedure is a step closer to reality. The Alabama Senate voted thirty to two to ban what’s known as dilation and evacuation. Critics call the procedure “heinous" and "barbaric." The bill would allow the procedure in the event of a "serious health risk to the mother." Mississippi Governor. Phil Bryant signed a similar bill into law earlier this month. Similar bans in Kansas and Oklahoma have been struck down by state courts.

If you’ve driven past Tuscaloosa’s Snow Hinton Park recently, you’ve no doubt noticed the strange red pyramid-like structure and towering spiral slide. The pyramid is called a space net, and despite its futuristic name, it’s actually a playground – and it’s been grabbing the attention of children and adults alike. APR student intern Josh Hollis has more...

Ten-year-old CJ is certainly a fan: “I’ve been on it more than twenty-five times today.”

APR

Picture this: you find yourself in an unfamiliar room. The only obvious exit is locked and there are no windows. Hidden in the room are locked boxes, random clues, and secret keys—all things you’ll need to escape. But you’d better hurry, because you only have 60 minutes to get out. APR Student reporter Josh Hollis has more...

Escape rooms are a growing trend across America and this form of escapist entertainment, literally speaking, has just reached Alabama. Three different escape room businesses have opened in the state since April.

 

This Sunday the city of Selma will remember the fiftieth anniversary of an event that became known as Bloody Sunday. Voting Rights marchers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965 were attacked by state troopers and a sheriff’s posse. History like this may be fresh in the memories of our parents and grandparents. But a group of student journalists from the University of Alabama got to experience the story for themselves. Alabama Public Radio newsroom intern Sarah Sherrill was among them, and she files this report…

Next week marks five years since Alabama's super tornado outbreak of 2011. The National Weather Service recalls 154 tornado warnings across the state that day. The Alabama Public Radio news team will be checking back with many of the people our listeners heard from in the hours following the killer storms. APR's Pat Duggins put together this audio remembrance from that day.

The owner of the Cleveland Browns NFL team is trying to avoid testifying in an Alabama court case. Jimmy Haslam and his brother, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, are accused of cheating customers at the Pilot Flying-J truck-stop chain the two co-own. Mobile based Wright Transportation is one of several companies suing the Haslam’s and their Knoxville-based Pilot Flying J. The brothers and their company are accused of trying to cheat customers out of promised discounts and rebates. The Tennessean newspaper reports Jimmy Haslam filed a motion after an Alabama judge ordered his deposition.

An estimated 76,000 Crimson Tide football fans crowded Bryant-Denny stadium at the University of Alabama for the annual “A-Day” game. The team split into “Crimson” and “White” squads and played each other in a game that left some sports commentators yawning. The Tide defense dominated, only allowing seven points for the White team, and three for the Crimson. For all the talk among fans and pundits about Cooper Bateman as the leading contender for quarterback, Freshman Jalen Hurts scored the only the touchdown of the day with a pass to Derek Kief late in the game. The A-Day crowd was ten thousand more than last year’s attendance, but twenty thousand short of 2011’s audience. That was the year the University of Alabama unveiled head coach Nick Saban’s statue at the stadium’s “walk of champions.” Click the second "Youtube" link at the bottom for a video with highlights of the game.

The Alabama Department of Mental Health has decertified the owner of nine group homes in northern Alabama. The Decatur Daily reports that state officials delivered the notice Thursday to K&D Group Home executive director Katie M. Smith that the state was immediately revoking her license. Smith was licensed to operate group homes in Decatur that serve patients with intellectual disabilities. Mental Health Commissioner James V.

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…

Same-Sex Marriage Legalized SUPERSPOT / AuBuchon

05210 February 9, 2015

Alabama became the thirty seventh state to legalize same-sex marriage today. Couples throughout Alabama have been applying for – and receiving – marriage licenses. But as APR’s Alex AuBuchon reports, some judges aren't going along with that federal ruling...

APR

Alabama considers itself “water rich,” with rivers and ground water filling apparent needs for agriculture, hydroelectric production, and home use. Still, environmentalists rank the state among the worst for water pollution, and blame governmental mismanagement for problems including no regulation of water use or dam construction. This prompted the Alabama Public Radio news team to spend most of 2015 investigating the condition of Alabama’s water supply and the health of its rivers.

“At that time, we’d been singing songs, we shall overcome, and before I’d be a slave…be dead and buried in my grave,” says Bennie Lee Tucker. He’s seventy four years old, and he spent the last fifty five of those years here in Selma. “And we gonna let nobody turn us around, no more Governor Wallace…no more white folk,” he says.

On the front porch of his home on Eugene Avenue, Tucker recalls March 7th, 1965. It was the height of the voting rights movement. Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior wasn’t the name on everyone’s mind that day.

There’s been a new twist in Alabama’s same sex marriage controversy. No new marriage licenses for same-sex couples will be issued, at least for now. APR's Pat Duggins reports...

APR

The Alabama Public Radio entry for "Most Outstanding News Operation" includes the work of news director Pat Duggins, reporter Stan Ingold, and news anchor/reporters Alex AuBuchon and MacKenzie Bates.

Governor Robert Bentley kept to his schedule over the weekend, despite growing turmoil in Montgomery over an alleged affair with his former senior aide. The Governor visited Eufaula to meet with the owners of a new factory that’s supposed to bring three hundred new jobs to the area. Ameritex is the only company in the U.S. that produces surgical gloves. Things could become less cordial on Tuesday, when state lawmakers return from Spring Break.

Alabama lawmakers have a lot on their plates when they return from spring break on Tuesday. The list of issues ranges from the state budget, to a proposed lottery, gas tax hike, a pay raise for teachers, and the possible impeachment of Governor Robert Bentley. The Governor says he’ll veto a general fund budget he's says has inadequate Medicaid funding. Legislators have said they intend to override his veto to enact the spending plan. Bentley threatens to call a special session, if they do that—assuming he’s still in office.

Alabama A&M University fired a tenured professor after the school discovered sex tapes of him and two students on campus. The school filed court documents in federal court stating that the pornographic videos were found on a school laptop. The recordings allegedly showed twenty year veteran professor Edward Jones performing three sex acts, two of which involved male students. The school says all three instances occurred on the Alabama A&M campus. Jones had been placed on administrative leave from his duties in October due to concerns raised by the Alabama Department of Education.

An Alabama electrical cooperative is helping rural residents of Tennessee get high-speed internet. The developer of a private mountaintop community outside of Chattanooga teamed up with the North Alabama Electrical Cooperative to get high-speed Internet access for the neighborhood. Developer John Thornton tried and failed to get the Tennessee legislature to expand broadband in rural areas. The proposal would have allowed municipal utilities that offer broadband to provide ultra-fast Internet outside their service area.

Investigators from Washington say a leaking natural gas pipe likely caused a deadly explosion in Birmingham three years ago. The blast at the Charles P. Marks Village in Birmingham's Gate City neighborhood was caused by a large crack in a sixty two year old cast iron pipe. The explosion killed one man and injured several others. Investigators think leaking gas built up in an apartment until a pilot light set it off. The NTSB says soil around the cracked pipe absorbed the rotten egg smell that typically warns bystanders of a natural gas leak.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley is responding to allegations he had an affair. The Governor has admitted to making “inappropriate remarks” to a female aide two years ago. Bentley spoke to reporters after former law enforcement secretary Spencer Collier held a conference saying Bentley had an inappropriate relationship with a female staffer. Bentley apologized for the inappropriate comments, but says that is as far as it went…

“I am truly sorry and I accept full responsibility. I want everyone to know though, that I have never had a physical affair with Mrs. Mason.”

The acting head of Alabama’s top law enforcement agency went looking for internal problems, and he may have found one. Stan Stabler says an investigation is underway into the possible misuse of state funds. Stabler says the findings have been submitted to the Alabama attorney general's office for further action. Stabler ordered an internal review of the agency after stepping in for director Spencer Collier, who’s is on medical leave.

Alabama lawmakers will hit the midpoint of the 2016 session next week with major votes on state budgets and other issues ahead of them. The House of Representatives will vote Tuesday on a General Fund budget that Governor Robert Bentley has already threatened to veto. The governor is seeking an additional $100 million for Medicaid. The budget before the House would only provide $15 million. Gambling legislation stalled in the first half of the legislative session. Bill sponsors said they are discussing changes in the hopes of getting a floor vote in the second half of the session.

Prison Riot Near Mobile

Mar 12, 2016

An early morning riot was reportedly sparked by a fight between a prisoner and a guard that left the officer stabbed nine times at the Holman Corrections Facility, north of Mobile. A SWAT team known as the Department of Corrections Emergency Response Team entered the prison and brought the fighting under control. Photos on news sites show inmates setting fires, wearing makeshift masks, and moving around the prison. Holman is the only correctional center in the state where executions are performed. Alabama has a chronic prisoner overcrowding problem.

Damage crews are combing an area in southwest Jefferson County as a possible tornado site. At least four people were injured and taken to a local hospital in the Bessemer and McCalla areas near Interstate-459. Jason Holmes is a Meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Birmingham. He says preliminary data shows a twister is likely to blame for the injuries and damage in that area…

“We have had numerous reports of trees and powerlines down and a few reports of some structures damage. We do not know the extent of the damage but we will be out in that area.”

Fans of writer Harper Lee came from as far as Maryland to Monroeville over the weekend for a candlelight vigil for the author who died just over a week ago. I was there to put together this audio postcard with remembrances of To Kill A Mockingbird.

Pages