The home-going service for Bernal E. Smith II, publisher of The New Tri-State Defender and a committed servant leader, has been set for Friday.
Mr. Smith died at his home Sunday afternoon. His wife, Towanda Smith, said doctors attributed his death to natural causes. He was 45.
Mt. Vernon Baptist Church-Westwood located at 620 Parkrose Rd. will be the setting for the home-going service, which is scheduled for noon on Friday. UPDATED: Visitation will be Thursday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the church, where Mr. Smith was a member.
UPDATED: Entombment will be in Forest Hill Cemetery, 1661 Elvis Presley Blvd, Memphis, TN 38106.
A joint statement Sunday evening from Associate Publisher Karanja A. Ajanaku and Calvin Anderson, president of Best Media Properties – the TSD’s parent company, acknowledged Mr. Smith’s passing.
“The New Tri-State Defender and its management board is devastated,” Ajanaku and Anderson said in the statement.
“We learned late this afternoon that Mr. Smith had passed. We extend our deepest and most heartfelt condolences to his family. We ask that all take note of the family’s request for privacy at this time.”
Well respected and widely known in Greater Memphis, Mr. Smith was selected as one of “The Grio100 History Makers in the Making” for his work in transforming The New Tri-State Defender into a dynamic multi-media business. Many knew him as a political analyst sounding a voice of reason for community issues on local television news stations. He was a regular part of Local 24’s “Local This Week” Sunday news segment and a regular political contributor for WMC-TV 5.
A native Memphian, Mr. Smith graduated from Rhodes College with a Bachelor of Art degree in business administration. He had served on the Rhodes College International Alumni Board of Directors and received the Outstanding Alumnus Award in 2001 presented by the Rhodes College Black Student Association.
In 2003, he obtained an MBA in Business Management from Union University in Jackson, Tenn.. He is also a graduate of the Leadership Memphis Executive Program and The New Memphis Institute Leadership Intensive Masters Program.
Mr. Smith was the Immediate Past President of the 100 Black Men of Memphis, Inc and a founder of the Memphis Academy of Health Sciences charter school sponsored by the 100. He personally mentored inner city young men for the past 17 years and spearheaded an annual youth leadership conference targeting African American young men ages 12-18.
A Memphis Urban League board member, Mr. Smith was also a member of the Memphis Blues Society, Memphis Academy of Health Sciences and the Whitehaven Leadership Council.
Mr. Smith recently was elected to the executive board of the National Newspaper Publishers Association. Recognition of his leadership includes having been selected by the Memphis Business Journal in 2001 as Top 40 under 40. He was selected to the Black Business Directory Top Guns under 40, Whitehaven High School Alumni Hall of Fame and received the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc Award of Excellence in Commerce.
He’s also been honored by a number of organizations in the community, including Mpact Memphis, The Top Ladies of Distinction, Phi Beta Sigma- African American Male Image Award, Kindle Award and The Coalition of 100 Black Women for his outstanding civic and business contributions.
He and his wife Towanda have three children Brianna, 23, Bryndon 18, and Braylon 13.
Mr. Smith understood the importance of using his talents and resources to improve the lives of those around him while also understanding how community involvement is good for business. It is this approach that gave him a unique perspective in building new opportunities and success for his various endeavors and for the community at large.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the American Heart Association.
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