A Bright Light Of The Black Press Dims: Bernal E. Smith II

A Bright Light Of The Black Press Dims: Bernal E. Smith II
by Stacy M. Brown
The National Newspaper Publishers Association lost one of its own.
Bernal E. Smith II, the president and publisher of the Tri-State Defender and a well-known civic leader in Memphis, Tenn., passed away Sun., October 22, 2017.
Smith was 45.
His funeral took place Fri., Oct. 27, 2017, at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church-Westwood, with Dr. James L. Netters officiating and Rev. Melvin D. Watkins, Jr., delivering the eulogy.
NNPA members throughout the country joined the thousands of people who came to the homegoing, offering their condolences to Smith’s family.
“The Memphis Silver Star News offers their sincere condolences to Bernal’s wife, children, and other family members,” said Silver Star News Editor-In-Chief Jimmy D. Williams.
“There were many times where Bernal and I would talk about promoting our City of Memphis while providing news coverage for the community, said SSN Associate Publisher/Editor Trennie L. Williams, PhDc. “From Whitehaven to the Washington, D.C., we engaged in similar activities for our publications, NNPA, and many other organziations.”
“The New Tri-State Defender and its management board was devastated when we learned that Mr. Smith had passed,” associate publisher Karanja Ajanaku said in a statement along with Calvin Anderson, the president of Best Media Properties, the Defender’s parent company.
Smith’s death caught many of his colleagues off-guard; all of them expressed shock and sympathy for his family.
“I am personally saddened by the death of our comrade and publisher Bernal Smith,” said Dorothy Leavell, the publisher of the Crusader newspapers in Chicago and the chairman of the NNPA. “He was just elected vice chairman in June and we were looking forward to working closely with him to find solutions for the future of our beloved Black Press.”
Smith was a serious and dedicated member of the fourth estate, Leavell added.
“We shall miss him so much,” said Leavell.
Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, the president and CEO of the NNPA, said that the entire NNPA family of African American publishers across the nation deeply mourns Smith’s death.
“As publisher of the New Tri-State Defender in Memphis, Smith represented the journalistic genius of a freedom-fighting publisher, who was dedicated to the empowerment of Black America,” Chavis said. “Long live the spirit of Bernal Smith.”
Joy Bramble, publisher of The Baltimore Times, said she was simply shocked by the news of Smith’s death.
“I was just working with him on some things, I just can’t believe it,” Bramble said.
Rosetta Perry, the publisher of the Tennessee Tribune, called Smith a true friend and a bright light.
“When I met him, we just clicked and I was comfortable with him, like I had known him my whole life, and I didn’t have to pretend to be anyone or anything,” Perry said. “That voice that we loved to hear at our meetings and training sessions is now still. Bernal’s place at the board of directors’ meetings will now be vacant, but he will live forever in our hearts.”
A graduate of Rhodes College, who also earned a master’s of business administration from Union University, Smith led a local group that purchased the Tri-State Defender from Real Times Media in 2013.
Smith mentored inner-city youth and once served as president of the 100 Black Men of Memphis.
To cherish his memory, Smith is survived by: his wife Towanda Peete-Smith; three children Biranna Amith, Bryndon Smith, and Braylon Smith; his mother Emerle D. Smith; two sisters Karen C. Rice and Chernika D. Smith (Tampa, Fl.); and a host of many other family members and friends.

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