JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The greatest basketball coach in Mizzou history is now the 51st person inducted into the “Hall of Famous Missourians” at the state capitol in Jefferson City.

FOX 2 had exclusive coverage of Wednesday’s ceremony celebrating 89-year-old Norm Stewart.

“Forever a Tiger, forever a legend… please join me in welcoming Norm Stewart into the Hall of Famous Missourians,” House Speaker Dean Plocher said on the Missouri House of Representatives floor before a crowd of Stewart’s family members, former players, Mizzou dignitaries, and lawmakers. 

The House was not in session during the ceremony.

Stewart’s ‘forever a tiger’ now, as he has a place in the hallowed hall in the Missouri Capitol Rotunda. 

The plaque beneath his bronze bust extols his accomplishments in 32 years as the University of Missouri men’s basketball coach from the late 1960s until 1999. His teams won eight conference titles and made 16 NCAAA tourney appearances. Stewart was also a founder of the “Coaches Versus Cancer” charity. 

Yet, in his induction speech, he didn’t talk about basketball very much. He joked often and spoke mostly of his ‘small town’ beginnings.  

“I was born in Leonard, Missouri,” he told the crowd, reflecting on his roots.

In an interview, he told FOX 2 that it was an inductee from years past and legendary Cardinals broadcaster Jack Buck who first helped him get comfortable talking about his humble roots.

“He said he slept with his brother. Well, I did the same thing: four of us in one room with two beds,” Stewart said. “I never would tell anybody that until Jack said it. I said, ‘Hey, if Jack Buck can do it, I can say something about that.’”

He told the crowd that his parents provided him and his siblings with love and good food. 

“The reason I liked basketball was that I got to take a shower,” he told the crowd, drawing laughter. “Some of you probably don’t connect with that but we did not have running water until I was a sophomore in high school… I can’t imagine my mom and dad thinking from those circumstances of being here today. I know they’re watching.”

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Even after his best seasons at Mizzou, he joked that the best thing people back home would say was that he’d done “pretty good.” 

“In Missouri, pretty good—excuse the language—but ‘pretty good’ is a hell of a compliment.  Whereas, if you go to New York, LA, or something, (they say) ‘The guy’s great. He’s fantastic.  He’s wonderful. He’s out of sight,” he said. “You know you’re on top in Missouri when they say, ‘Hey, you’re pretty good.’ Some of the great lessons are learned in small towns.”

Stewart said his wife, Virginia, the love of his life, was the one who should be honored.

A post-ceremony photo session seemed longer than his speech.

There were four generations of his family there, plus governors from past and present, members of the legislature, former Mizzou football coaching great Gary Pinkel, and of course, Stewart’s former players. 

In a way, he was still coaching the entire room, with a lesson about how someone like him could be honored with the likes of Dred Scott, Stan Musial, and even famed explorers Lewis and Clark, whose full-body statues stand outside the Rotunda entrance.

“First, I want to say I was not on that trip with Lewis & Clark,” he said, joking again during his interview.

He said the greatest honor was to be sculpted by his friend and renowned Columbia, MO, artist, Sabra Tull Meyer, who died a little more than a year ago. She had also sculpted the Lewis & Clark trailhead plaza monument just outside the capitol.

“Missouri has been so good to me,” he said.

He noted that she was a previous homecoming queen, like his wife.

He ended his remarks to the crowd saying, “I say we left it a little better than when we found it…If you’re ever driving out in the country…you see a turtle on top of that fence post, you can bet your sweet bippy he didn’t get there by himself. Neither did I.”

Thunderous applause followed. ‘Pretty good,’ indeed.