Bernal E. Smith II, the late publisher of The New Tri-State Defender, speaks to an audience at a community meeting in Whitehaven. (Photo: Lee Eric Smith)

When we at asked our readers to share their thoughts and condolences about our late publisher, Bernal E. Smith II, we expected dozens of responses; that was no surprise. Nor was it surprising to see the range of respondents — young and old; professional partners and childhood friends; people who mentored him and who he mentored.

And yet, READING these submissions — only a fraction of them posted here — is extraordinarily moving. Look for a similar collection in our special print edition honoring Bernal, out Oct. 26 (tomorrow). In the meantime . . . read and reflect . . .

Bernal and I had lunch earlier this year at the Bleu. We talked about family and his New Years resolution to be a connector. He talked about his son and a telescope he bought him after looking at a picture of my son Jude look through his. That was the last time I saw him. While we never got the opportunity to work together his passion for The City of Memphis was always clear in our conversations. He truly believed in its people and the transformative power of education. That belief was always evident when we spoke. I’m praying God’s Blessings and Peace to his wife and kids.

Jerry Sanders

Paraphrasing Ossie Davis’ words about Bro Malcolm Memphis will bid farewell to one of its brightest hopes -gone from us forever. For Memphis is where he worked and where he struggled and fought – his home of homes, where his heart was, and where his people are – and it is, therefore, most fitting that we meet once again – in Memphis – to share these last moments with him. It is not in the memory of man that this beleaguered, unfortunate, but nonetheless proud community has found a braver, more gallant young champion than this African American man. Nobody knew better than he the power words have over minds of men. Bernal was our manhood, our living, black manhood! This was his meaning to his people. And, in honoring him, we honor the best in ourselves.

Rev. Rosalyn R. Nichols

It greatly saddens me and seems surreal to know Bernal has passed. My immediate family and work family (Bank of Bartlett) of which Bernal will always be a part all loved and greatly respected him for his executive talents and goodness. I and my bank colleagues had the pleasure to work with Bernal for almost 5 years getting to know him and his family. Our prayers and sincere sympathies are with Towanda and the entire family in this time of great loss. May God comfort this wonderful family knowing Bernal stands in good with our Lord.

Harold Byrd

We are extremely proud of Bernal E. Smith’s intelligence, vision, compassionate, dedication and extraordinary leadership for Memphis/Shelby County, State of Tennessee, regionally, nationally and globally as a remarkable journalist. .David and I treasure his friendship, fellowship, humanitarianism, commitment, professionalism, entrepreneurship, leadership as a Voice, an advocate and trailblazer for a better world. Because of his championship, creativity, knowledge, imagination, advocacy, sincerity, fearless determination, commanding eloquence and integrity, The New Tri-State Defender has risen to new heights.with increased success. David and I, as your friend, associate, church member and extended family, will continue to advance your mission of devotion to high ideals, citizenship, and distinguished public service record. Bernal, like most and women of great character and accomplishments, you possessed a genuine combination of judgment, imagination, and fidelity to truth – unaffected and unassuming.

David L. Acey, Sr. & Yvonne B. Acey
Africa In April

I have known Bernal since the fourth grade once I came to Westwood. We were friends from the jump. All I had to do was walk up from my house on Melwood and make a right on Bonwood and I was at his parents’ house. I remember jumping the fence to go to Mt Vernon and go to Boy Scout meetings or to play football on the church grounds in the mid 1980s. We grew apart after he transferred to Whitehaven. Being a freelance photographer linked us up again through seeing each other at different events and supplying photos to the paper on occasions. We always showed love to each other whenever we saw one another. His passing shocked me beyond belief. I will truly miss him because he was one of my longest friends in life. Prayers to his family and a long list of friends and associates in Memphis and around the world.

Jason Porter

I was an intern for The New Tri-State Defender the summer of 2016. Bernal reached out to me, and gave me the opportunity to be apart of the paper. He guided me the time that I was there, and gave me insight on how to pursue my future career. He made an impact on my life and I know for sure he did the same with other youth from the city of Memphis. I’m still in complete shock and his family are in my prayers. This is a loss that I can’t wrap my mind around. Bernal will be truly missed.

Lyric Edwards

My deepest condolences to Bernal’s family and all TSD team. He was a true leader, visionary and great person. We have lost an amazing entrepreneur. His legacy will continue throughout the TSD.

Alex Matlock, President
Mid South Latino Chamber of Commerce

The Shelby County Young Democrats are saddened to know that we’ve lost an industry trailblazer, unapologetic advocate for black economic power, and mentor to a new generation of leaders in Memphis. I smile at the stories of millennial graphic designers, writers and business owners who are sharing stories of how Bernal offered them their first words of encouragement… their first newspaper spotlight… their first paid job doing the work they’ve grown to love. It’s no wonder that a few days before his passing, I saw Bernal at a Young Democrat’s political campaign kick-off event. He was precisely the type of experienced leader we need – teaching, championing, and celebrating us every step of the way. He told our stories. He marched on the front line with us. He held us all accountable. I pray that Bernal’s energy lives on in Memphis. Our city needed him. Bernal, thank you for being a catalyst for people, for big dreams, and for a bright future in Memphis. We love you.

Danielle Inez, President
Shelby County Young Democrats

I offer my sincere condolences to Towanda and her entire family in the loss of her husband, Bernal. I shall always remember Bernal as a brilliant man with extraordinary potential to lead and to serve others. We became acquainted many years ago through our membership in the Southeastern African -American Publishers Association (SAAPA) and as members of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), Region II. Bernal was an individual whom one could easily communicate with. He was an excellent listener and a thoughtful communicator. His early transition has left me with much sadness but I know that God knows best. May he Rest In Peace.

Jackie Hampton, Publisher
The Mississippi Link

We both attended Havenview Jr. High and Whitehaven High, where the Tiger is the mascot at both schools. He was a man that always took time to help other African American males. He will be missed and he would always say to me that we were Tigers Forever! RIP B. Smith.

Patrick Woods

To the Smith family, my condolences are with you. I have known Bernal for over 12 years. I met him while serving as a leader in the National Coalition of 100 Black Women and our relationship continued throughout my presidency in the organization. He was a special friend and supporter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women-Memphis Chapter programs and initiatives. He was people and community focused and knew what it meant to be accountable to the people he served. I am deeply saddened by his sudden death because of the leadership void his absence will have on this community. But, I am so thankful to him for all the creative ventures he established in this community (e.g., 50 Women of Excellence, MAHS school, Best in Black Awards, Men’s Awards program) that built us up and made us proud. I will miss him….

Bettye Boone, Immediate Past President
National Coalition of 100 Black Women-Memphis Chapter

I learned of Bernal’s passing on Facebook as I’m sure a lot of people learned that way. There are no words to describe my initial reaction. I frantically started texting people who I knew was close enough to him to confirm his passing. I am still in disbelief. When Bernal was looking for a person to fill an administrative support role at The New Tri-State Defender, I applied. I wanted that job so bad because it would give me a chance to work for him and the legendary black newspaper as well as serve the community. I did not get the job, but the interview allowed me to get to meet him and talk with him to share his passion for the paper and the city. I’m so glad I got to do this. He was a very professional, smart, intelligent man and I’m just glad I got to know him. My sincere condolences to his wife, children, employees, family and friends. May you find peace at this time.

Donna Harvey

My heartfelt condolences go out to Towanda Peete-Smith and the entire Smith family on the loss of a great husband, father and community activist, Bernal Smith. From Havenview Jr High to Whitehaven High to Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc to the present, Bernal has been the epitome of what it is to be a man of high character and a productive member of society to be used as a model for all. I am proud to call him a friend and a brother. The Whitehaven High School Alumni, entire Whitehaven Community and the Greater City of Memphis have lost a giant that will be difficult to replace.

Rodney Saulsberry, Head Football Coach
Whitehaven High School

My sincerest condolences to the family and staff of Bernal. My most recent memory is when Bernal was on my show “The Bev Johnson Show” to talk about the upcoming Best in Black Awards, and not knowing that I would be a recipient of that award. Bernal was always a gentlemen when he came on the show and was very knowledgeable about the happenings around the city, country, and the world. I will definitely miss his insight. he was a class act!

Bev Johnson, Host
The Bev Johnson Show on WDIA

I got to know Bernal on the set of WKNO’s “Behind the Headlines,” during many media roundtable discussions. I always sat next to Bernal. He’d done the show many, many more times than I had. So, I fed off of his confidence and joked that he was “my rock.” I always admired how clearly he thought and how clearly (and sometimes boldly) he expressed himself. He was fair-minded, knew the rights and wrongs of the city’s complicated issues. He faced them and talked about them and wrote about them. When necessary, he shouted about them. I always looked forward to seeing him, hearing his stories, joking around with him, and hearing his thoughts on the news of the days. He is missed.

Toby Sells, Associate Editor
The Memphis Flyer