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

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. APR's Pat Duggins was there to put together this audio postcard with remembrances of the author of To Kill A Mockingbird.

Today's funeral for "To Kill a Mockingbird" author Harper Lee was as private as her later life in the town of Monroeville. A few dozen family members gathered Saturday at the First United Methodist Church. Her hometown was the inspiration for southern town depicted in her Pulitzer Prize winning classic "To Kill a Mockingbird." Her casket was taken by silver hearse to the adjacent cemetery where her father, A.C. Lee and sister, Alice Lee, are buried. Two uniformed Monroeville police officers stood outside the church during the private service.

A Montgomery federal prosecutor says claims of prosecutorial misconduct in the ethics case against House Speaker Mike Hubbard should play out in state court. U.S. Attorney George Beck responded to a letter from legislators seeking a probe of the Hubbard prosecution. Beck says it was not a "federal issue." He added that legislators have their own power to investigate. More than three dozen legislators sent a letter Thursday to Beck and U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch seeking the probe.

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...

2015 marked the fiftieth anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” in the town of Selma, Alabama. Voter rights marchers, in 1965, were attacked by State Troopers and a Sheriff’s posse who used horses, tear gas, and clubs to beat back the crowd.

Water Opener

September 3, 2015

All year long on Alabama Public Radio, we’ve been looking at water. Specifically, the condition of Alabama’s drinking water supply and the health of our rivers. The APR news team will present a number of stories over the coming weeks on the subject. It’s a story of politics, pollution, economics, and the obvious need that water is there when you turn on the tap. To that end, APR news director Pat Duggins travelled from one end of Alabama to the other to answer the question—where does your water come from?


“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.


It’s Sunday afternoon on Lake Guntersville. It’s ninety five degrees outside and Douglas Webster is calling it a day.

“It’s okay. It’s a little slow. Still, the fry…we were finding fry around the piers.” And if you don’t know what a fry is… “Baby fish,” says Douglas Webster. He's a bass fisherman. That’s where all the lingo comes from Water laps While Webster secures his bass boat, Braulio Pedroso is just now putting his fishing rod in the water…

This is a list of school closures due to wintry weather as of 10 a.m. Tuesday. For the most up-to-date information on your child's school, call that school's front office. Pat Duggins

Arab City Schools: Closing at 11:30 a.m.

Cullman County Schools closing at noon

DeKalb County Schools: Closed.

Fayetteville City Schools: Closed all day Tuesday

Fort Payne Schools: Closed.

Franklin County Schools: All schools closed Tuesday.

Jackson County Schools: Closed.

Lawrence County, AL Schools: Dismissing at noon.

Black residents in the city of Dothan have filed a civil rights complaint over a landfill. The Dothan Eagle reports the nine plaintiffs are being represented by Florida environmental attorney David Ludder. The residents claim the plan to expand the dump discriminates against black residents because African Americans comprise almost ninety percent of the population within a mile of the proposed expansion. That claim includes eighty percent of the population within a mile and a half.

Governor Robert Bentley is scheduled to visit rural west Alabama to discuss the state's response to storms that caused significant damage in several areas. Dr. Bentley will tour Pickens County Saturday and discuss the importance of storm shelters. The National Weather Service confirms two tornadoes touched down in Pickens County Tuesday night and two others also hit Lamar and Fayette counties. The Pickens County twister had peak wind speeds of up to 135mph, while Lamar County had a wind speed of 105mph, and the Fayette County storm was clocked at 90mph.

Governor Robert Bentley is authorized more than $200,000 in emergency funding to help public health officials continue responding to a tuberculosis outbreak in west central Alabama. Health officials say an outbreak of the airborne bacterial infection has killed three people since 2011, prompting aggressive screening efforts in Marion. That includes bribing local residents to get screened and follow up with necessary treatment. Two thousand people had been tested for tuberculosis in Marion as of Tuesday.


Mardi Gras may not officially take place until next Tuesday—but that’s not keeping the doubloons and beads from flying over the weekend. Twelve parades are scheduled in Mobile and around the Gulf coast. Mobile prides itself as the originator of “Fat Tuesday” celebrations in the United States, in 1703, long before the revels on the day before the beginning of Lent was popularized in New Orleans. A taste of Mardi Gras comes to Tuscaloosa tonight. The Mystic Krewe of Druids is hosting its annual Bal Masque event at the Bama theater.

APR's MacKenzie Bates updated NPR's mid-day news magazine "Here & Now" on the Tuberculosis outbreak in west central Alabama. The rate is 100X the normal case load, putting Alabama in a worse position than Kenya or Bangladesh. To hear MacKenzie's story, click below on the link marked "read more at..."


It will likely be Wednesday morning before complete damage reports can be made from rough weather that hit parts of west central Alabama. A pair of tornadoes and straight line winds reportedly damaged homes, tore down trees and power lines, and caused injuries.

Hail and strong winds are expected to hit parts of the state on Tuesday. Forecasters say it isn’t uncommon to see major storms this time of the year. The rise in temperature has caused some things to become unstable which can result in strong to severe storms. Chelly Amin is a Meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Huntsville. She says high winds are expected and possibly more…

Fans of the Alabama Crimson Tide braved blustery sub-freezing temperatures to celebrate this month's College Football Championship victory over the Clemson Tigers. The players, led by team captains Jake Coker, Derrick Henry, Ryan Kelly, Reggie Ragland, and head coach Nick Saban paraded from Denny Chimes to Bryant-Denny stadium. That's where Saban officially received the Cotton Bowl trophy for the team's semi-final victory over Michigan State.

An Alabama senator says legislature is considering a raise for education employees with a performance-based model for teachers. Senator Del Marsh told the Dothan Eagle the amount of the raise has yet to be determined, but there is an emerging consensus that education employees should receive a raise. The last time Alabama teachers got a raise was in 2013, the same year their contributions to retirement increased. Senator Marsh's promise comes at a time when state lawmakers are expecting another tight budget year, with more spending cuts possible.

This is the latest list as 10 am this morning. For up-to-date information on your child's school, contact that school's front office. Pat Duggins•

Athens City Schools o Elementary schools, grades K-4 will dismiss at 11:30 am o Grades 5-12 will dismiss at 11:45 am. All activities for Friday and Saturday are canceled.

Athens Bible School -- Elementary school will dismiss at 11:30 a.m. Grades 5-12 will dismiss at 11:45 a.m. •

Bethel Baptist School in Hartselle will dismiss at 12 pm.

Colbert County Schoolswill dismiss at 11:30 a.m.

Thousands of Alabamians flocked to Birmingham last night for a rally held by Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. APR’s Alex AuBuchon attended the rally and files this report.

Remembering Dr. King...

Jan 18, 2016

Click below to hear selections from Alabama Public Radio's coverage of Dr. Martin Luther King, junior and the Alabama civil rights movement, including national and international award winning stories...

State health officials say three people are dead from tuberculosis in the west Alabama town of Marion. The Health Department says twenty people from the community south of Tuscaloosa have been diagnosed with the respiratory illness in the last year. Four others have been diagnosed with TB around Tuscaloosa, and two in Centreville. That’s one hundred times the average tuberculosis rate for Alabama. Health officials are planning a community meeting about the outbreak in Marion on Thursday. It's offering twenty each to Marion residents who come in for TB blood tests.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban is now within one championship of equaling the six championship record of the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant. The Crimson Tide defeated the Clemson Tigers 45-40, in a hard fought game, to claim its first College Football Championship title. That, plus three BCS titles at Alabama, and one during his tenure at LSU, gives Saban his total of five championships.

Residents of Birmingham are still picking up the pieces following a Christmas night tornado that hit a suburb southwest of town. Jefferson County is working to fix storm sirens that didn’t go off as the storm closed in. The County Commission blames the failure on maintenance projects that have fallen behind as the county comes out of a multi-billion dollar bankruptcy. The National Weather Service confirms an EF-2 tornado with one hundred and thirty mile an hour winds hit that Birmingham suburb.