Family, friends remember Bernal Smith II

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Friends and family said a final goodbye to beloved Memphis newspaper publisher Bernal Smith II, who was laid to rest Friday.

They said there's no doubt Smith is smiling down from heaven. His funeral Friday afternoon was a celebration of his life.

"Long live the spirit of Bernal E. Smith," said Dr. Benjamin E. Chavis with NNPA. "Long live the spirit of the New Tri-State Defender."

His family said he died at his home last Sunday from natural causes. Still, his death felt sudden for many.

"We're shocked with people 45 years of age suddenly leave this earth," said friend Pastor Keith Norman.

Hundreds paid tribute to the man known for transforming the New Tri-State Defender. He also fought for city minority-owned contracts. His smooth style, yet care for people was evident through his work.

"He loved Memphis," said Smith's pastor Reverend Melvin Watkins. "He wanted us to have all access to capital, he wanted us to have social capital."

At his funeral, his family was given proclamations for his service and commitment to the city.

Additionally, the 100 Black Men of Memphis announced a scholarship fund in his name for students pursuing careers in communication and journalism.

"He had that way of meeting you and making you feel better about yourself," said friend Michael Wilson. "Thank you for sharing Bernal with me and to all of us."

An advocate for giving back, his loved ones said his legacy will never be forgotten.

Copyright 2017 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.