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 lawmakers will vote next month on the state's "judicial override" law. That statute current allows a judge to impose a death sentence when a jury has recommended life imprisonment. Alabama Public Radio covered this policy as part of its multi part series titled "...and justice for all." Alabama is the only state that allows a judge to do this.

Arkansas lawmakers have given final approval to legislation removing the holiday honoring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. The "Natural State" observed the Lee holiday on the same day as slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. The state House approved the proposal by a sixty six to eleven vote on Friday and sent it to Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson. He urged lawmakers to end the dual holiday. Once the bill is signed into law, Mississippi and Alabama will be the only states that honor Lee and King on the same day.

The state of Alabama is seeking to enforce a state law against a commonly used second-trimester abortion procedure. The state has appealed a federal judge's ruling that blocked enforcement of the state's 2016 law banning abortion through dilation and evacuation. State lawyers wrote a brief filed last week for the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, say the procedure is described as "particularly brutal." U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled that ban would cause Alabama women to lose access to abortion in the state after fifteen weeks of pregnancy.

An investigation is underway at Alabama’s Elmore State prison after two inmates and a guard were stabbed. The corrections officer was injured trying to break up a fight. Elmore is on lockdown as a result. The DOC says a third inmate is suspected in the stabbings. Tyrone Dunn is serving twenty five years for assault. All of the men who were stabbed were released after treatment at a hospital. Investigators don't yet know what started the fight. Critics say a prison building plan approved by the Alabama Senate won’t address this type of violence.

The Alabama Senate has approved a pared down prison construction plan. The bill authorizes the state to lease up to three prisons built by local communities. The bill would also authorize a three hundred and twenty five million dollars state bond issue to build one new prison and renovate others. The Southern Poverty Law Center is criticizing plan as inadequate and that it will not address problems like prison violence and understaffing. Go to to hear Alabama Public Radio’s multi part series on prison reform titled “…and justice for all.”

A bill to regulate daycare centers in Alabama could spark a serious political fight. Lawmakers will debate a proposal to require all day cares to be regulated by the state. That idea would end a longstanding exemption for faith-based facilities. The bill is expected to face pushback from lawmakers who want to keep the exemption open for churches. Supporters of the bill say the loophole leaves children vulnerable to abuse and neglect. The group VOICES for Alabama's Children says the state is one of seven that broadly exempt faith-based day cares from regulation.

The Southern Poverty Law Center says it’s reached a settlement over what critics say is a modern day debtors’ prison. Alexander City and its police chief were accused of unjustly jailing residents who were too poor to pay fines or court fees. One hundred and ninety people were imprisoned for non-payment over a two year period. The alleged practice resulted in a federal class action lawsuit. The U.S. District Court in Montgomery approved the settlement which will pay each plaintiff five hundred dollars for each day of unlawful imprisonment.

There will be a delay in the reckless murder trial of a former NASA Astronaut. The judge in the Tuscaloosa case against James Halsell says the trial will be delayed until June while both sides work on a possible plea agreement. The defense requested a delay due to negotiations for a possible settlement involving Halsell. A motion says the two sides also are still exchanging evidence. The sixty year-old former astronaut was arrested after a June traffic crash that killed led eleven year old Niomi James and thirteen year-old Jayla Parler.

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…


Former NASA astronaut Mae Jemison addressed female students studying mathematics and engineering at the University of Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa. The Decatur native was the first African American woman to fly in space. Jemison later had a guest appearance as a crew member of the U.S.S. Enterprise on "Star Trek: The Next Generation." The veteran Space Shuttle astronaut will also be immortalized with her own LEGO figure in a collection of space pioneers. Jemison's only mission in space was STS-47, or Spacelab-J for Japan in 1992.

More and more U.S. States are following Alabama's lead, and re-instituting cursive writing instruction for school kids. The skill is looping back into style in schools across the country after a generation of students raised on keyboarding, texting and printing out letters longhand. Alabama and Louisiana passed laws in 2016 mandating cursive proficiency in public schools, the latest of 14 states to require cursive. And last fall, the 1.1 million-student New York City school system encouraged teaching cursive to students in the third grade.

Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster has been sent home from the NFL combine, according to sources including the Associated Press. The Dick Butkus Award winner reportedly had an heated argument with a doctor before interviews with the teams were to begin. Foster suffered injuries toward the end of his career with the Alabama Crimson Tide, including surgery on his rotator cuff. That operation was to have kept him out of on-field drills at the combine. Foster is widely considered the best inside linebacker coming out of college, with five sacks and over one hundred tackles.

Workers at the Federal Courthouse in Tuscaloosa are expected to see a familiar sight today. Protesters carried signs up and down the sidewalk along University Boulevard. They have one message and one man to whom they want that message delivered. APR’s Pat Duggins hit the streets…

Even after organizing two protest marches, the megaphone still takes getting used to…

APR News Director Pat Duggins shot this video as demonstrators marched up and down the sidewalk past Tuscaloosa's Federal Courthouse. They want a town hall meeting with Senator Richard Shelby on questions ranging from Donald Trump to the Affordable Care Act.

The Mardi Gras season is coming to a close in Mobile tomorrow. Fat Tuesday is the culmination of the party filled season, and officials estimate over one million people have visited the Port City. Judy Gulledge is the Executive Director for the Mobile Carnival Association. She says the city touts its family friendly atmosphere and fun for everybody approach to the festivities.

All may not be well with Alabama’s Republican legislature. GOP House member Ed Henry says his colleagues are "deeply divided" over floor leadership and the direction as a caucus. Henry went as far as to ask for a "no-confidence" vote Wednesday in longtime Majority Leader Micky Hammon. Henry resigned as vice-chairman of the caucus. He says Hammon narrowly held on to his position, although other Republicans said the vote results are confidential. Hammon says he remained majority leader after Henry raised his concerns.

Retired Lt. Gen. Harold G. "Hal" Moore who was portrayed by actor Mel Gibson in the motion picture "We Were Soldiers" has died. Moore became a war hero known for saving most of his men in the first major battle between the U.S. and North Vietnamese armies. Joseph Galloway co-authored Moore's book "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young." He confirmed Moore's death to The Associated Press. The General died late Friday in his sleep at his home in Auburn, Alabama. Moore was just two days shy of his 95th birthday.

Lawyers for Alabama prison inmates want a federal judge to force the state to put additional suicide prevention measures in place. All sides will gather on Monday for a settlement conference. This follows a motion to the court last Thursday, where the inmates’ legal team argued the Department of Corrections has failed to comply with an agreement reached in January after a prisoner killed himself. His death came just days after testifying in the class-action lawsuit alleging Alabama provides inadequate psychiatric care.

New Alabama AG, Old Problems

Feb 11, 2017

Governor Robert Bentley appointed district attorney Steve Marshall to be Alabama’s new attorney general. Marshall inherits what could be a legal and political hornet’s nest related to allegations that Bentley had an affair with a top staffer. The Governor appointed former AG Luther Strange to fill the U.S. Senate vacancy left when Jeff Sessions confirmed as U.S. attorney general in the Trump administration. Members of the state legislature are waiting to see if Marshall moves ahead with the investigation into Bentley’s alleged wrongdoings with former aide Rebekah Caldwell Mason.


“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.


The Alabama Public Radio news team is welcoming journalist Ousmane Sagara. He's a veteran radio reporter from the west central African nation of Mali, and part of a three week visiting journalist program. Ousmane arrived in the United States on January 20th, in time to witness the inauguration of Donald Trump as President. Below is his account, of that day and the protest marches that followed, for the Renouveau News Service in Mali's capitol city of Bomako--Pat Duggins

Governor Robert Bentley hopes the incoming Trump administration will allow states to charge Medicaid premiums and set enrollment requirements. The Republican governor wrote House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy the day before Trump's inauguration, as Congress works on a repeal and possible replacement for the Affordable Care Act. Bentley says states need flexibility to set Medicaid enrollment requirements, reduce benefits and impose premiums on recipients. Bentley cautioned repealing the Affordable Care Act without a "clear replacement" could cause some insurers to withdraw from the market.

"Fly Me To The Moon..."

Jan 21, 2017

The University of Alabama in Huntsville is aiming for the moon. The School is making a quarter billion dollar proposal to NASA to launch a satellite to lunar orbit. The mission is called the Lunar Occultation Explorer astrophysics mission. It would put a satellite with gamma-ray sensors in orbit around the moon to study exploding stars known as supernovae. Earth's atmosphere screens out most gamma rays, making a vantage point around the airless moon better for scientific study.

The University of Alabama reports the Crimson Tide arrived in Tampa at noon today for Monday's championship game against Clemson. The Tigers own flight landed hours later. Some college football fans may not have as smooth a trip. Forecasters are saying travel could be a problem through Saturday, and some flights already have been canceled because of the weather. The game is Monday night. Elsewhere, state government offices in Montgomery and northward closed early Friday because of potential travel problems.

Today’s winter storm warning has already closed schools and governmental offices in Alabama, as well as the southeastern U.S. Forecasters are concerned how freezing temperatures after the snow falls could mean ice on the roads that southern drivers aren’t used to handling. What’s worse, snowy condition could mean delayed package deliveries. Shipping giant FedEx says delays are possible for parcels delivered across the country Friday due to winter weather that has swept through its home base in Memphis.







These are the latest school districts that have announced Friday closings due to concerns over snow. For the latest information on your child's school, call that school's front office--Pat Duggins

Colbert County Schools

Florence City Schools

Franklin County Schools

Muscle Shoals City Schools

Bibb County Schools

Blount County Schools

Chilton County Schools

Fairfield City Schools

Forestdale Baptist School and Kindergarten

Gadsden City Schools

Jefferson County Schools

Pelham City Schools

Lane Kiffin is being replaced as Alabama's offensive coach, one week before the national championship game against Clemson. Head coach Nick Saban says Kiffin will leave to focus on his new job as Florida Atlantic's head coach. Incoming offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will replace him for next Monday's title game against Clemson in Tampa. Saban says he and Kiffin spoke following the semifinal game against Washington.

Alabama parents can now see how their child’s school is doing by going on-line. The Alabama Department of Education in December released the report cards. The system gives scores in four areas, including learning gains, student achievement, local indicators and the graduation rate for high schools. Parents can see how their school, or school system, compares to the rest of the state. The report cards won't include the letter grades ordered by state lawmakers. That feature goes into effect this December. The report cards can be viewed at:

The New Year means no more “common law” marriages in Alabama. The state will not recognize new common-law marriages beginning January first. Common-law marriages already in effect will continue to be recognized. That kind of marriage refers to couples who live together as a married couple, but who haven't gotten a state marriage license. Lawmakers voted earlier this year to prohibit the recognition of new common-law marriages. An appellate judge last year urged lawmakers to make the change.