One of the first two women inducted into the Naismith National Basketball Hall of Fame, Lusia Harris-Stewart has made her mark on the basketball world as well as on culture at large since embarking on her groundbreaking athletic career in the 1970s. Born in 1955, the tenth of eleven children of Willie and Ethel Harris, Harris spent her childhood on a vegetable farm in Minter City, frequently playing basketball with her siblings. She continued to play through middle school and high school and was recruited by Delta State University.
Harris’s Delta State teams won the championship of the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) in 1975, 1976, and 1977. Harris was the top scorer at the 1975 World Games and the Pan American Games. She notched the first two points ever scored by a women’s basketball player at the Olympics, leading the US team to a silver medal in 1976 in Montreal. She was selected three times to the Kodak All-American Team and the AIAW All-Tournament Team. In 1976 she was named Most Valuable Player at the AIAW National Championship as well as Mississippi’s first Amateur Athlete of the Year. The following year, Harris won the Broderick Award as the AIAW’s top basketball player and the Broderick Cup as female collegiate athlete of the year. In 1977 the New Orleans Jazz made her the first and only woman ever officially selected in a National Basketball Association draft, though she never tried out for the team. While at Delta State she also became the first black woman named Homecoming Queen. Also in 1977, she married George Stewart; they have four children.
Harris-Stewart holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Delta State and has worked as a teacher and basketball coach at the college and high school levels, primarily in Mississippi. She also played professionally in 1979–80 in the Women’s Professional Basketball League.
Harris-Stewart has been inducted into the Delta State Hall of Fame, the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame, and the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. In 1992 she became one of the first two women inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. In 2007 she was honored by NBA superstar LeBron James’s James Family Foundation for her work as an educator and coach and because of her groundbreaking achievements.
- Seale Ballenger, Hell’s Belles: A Tribute to the Spitfires, Bad Seeds, and Steel Magnolias of the New and Old South (1997)
- Lusia Harris-Stewart, Oral History Files, Delta State University
- Darlene Clark Hine, Elsa Barkley Brown, and Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, eds., Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia (1994)
- Ernestine Gichner Miller and Carole A. Oglesby, Making Her Mark: Firsts and Milestones in Women’s Sports (2002)
- “Oral History with Ms. Lucia Harris-Stewart” (1999), Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage, University of Southern Mississippi, http://digilib.usm.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/coh/id/3087