Shelby County Commissioners direct $20,000 to Bernal E. Smith II scholarship

After voting unanimously to support the Bernal E. Smith II Scholarship fund, members of the Shelby County Board of Commissioners framed this moment with Smith’s wife and daughter and the president of the 100 Black Men of Memphis. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku)

The 100 Black Men of Memphis chapter this week got a $20,000 boost from the Shelby County Board of Commissioners in the group’s effort to raise funds for the scholarship named in honor of Bernal E. Smith II, the late publisher of The New Tri-State Defender.

Backing – and adding on to a resolution sponsored by Commissioners Willie F. Brooks Jr., Mark Billingsley, Melvin Burgess, Justin R. Ford and Reginald Milton – the commission unanimously approved the awarding of county funds from the fiscal 2018 operating budget.

Towanda Smith thanks the Shelby County of Commissioners for their timely support of the scholarship fund saluting her late husband. Also pictured, Brianna Smith and Ron Redwing. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku)

Smith’s wife, Towanda Smith, attended the commission session with her daughter, Brianna. She thanked the sponsoring commissioners and the board as a whole.

“I could not see a more befitting day than December 4th (for approval of the resolution), which is Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity’s Founders’ Day, to commemorate the life and legacy of our beloved Bernal E. Smith II,” she said. “Thank you all so much.”

Smith was an active member of the fraternity.

Ron Redwing, president of 100 Black Men of Memphis, said the scholarship funds would be directed to a young man or young woman seeking a degree in journalism or business at any Memphis college or university.

Commissioner Van Turner expressed a sentiment shared by the commissioners.

“When I think of Bernal, I smile,” Turner said. “He gave so much back to the community and he is an inspiration for us all.”

Smith died on Oct. 22. He was 45.