Bernal Smith II, Publisher of New Tri-State Defender Dies

By Bill Dries


Bernal E. Smith II, president and publisher of The New Tri-State Defender newspaper, died Sunday, Oct. 22, at his home, according to Smith’s family.

Smith, 45, oversaw the resurrection of the legacy African-American owned newspaper starting in 2010.

Smith came to the helm of the newspaper from a career in finance as special assets manager of Bank of Bartlett, a vice president of the Greater Memphis Chamber and Vice President of community and economic development of Hope Community Credit Union.

At the New Tri-State Defender, he became a voice on such issues as the future of Beale Street, police misconduct and the Black Lives Matter movement, minority business development and white flight’s impact on economic development. He also deepened the newspaper’s reporting on local issues.

Smith was a frequent panelist on reporters’ roundtable segments of the WKNO TV program “Behind The Headlines.”

“The New Tri-State Defender and its management board is devastated, said associate publisher Karanja Ajanaku and Calvin Anderson, president of Best Media Properties, the parent company of TSD.

“We learned late this afternoon that Mr. Smith had passed,” the written statement added. “We extend our deepest and most heartfelt condolences to his family.”