Bernal Smith's widow discusses life after her husband's death

Bernal Smith II (Source: WMC Action News 5)
Bernal Smith II (Source: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A longtime Mid-South newspaper looks to move forward in the new year after the tragic death of its beloved leader.

New Tri-State Defender publisher Bernal Smith passed away suddenly earlier this year.

WMC Action News 5's Jerica Phillips spoke with Towanda Peete-Smith about her husband's legacy and the paper's new mission in 2018.

"We are still coping with his untimely demise. We do know that we will get through this," Towanda Peete-Smith said.

Peete-Smith is relying on her faith to get her through each day following the death of her husband, Bernal Smith II, who died of natural causes in October at just 45 years old.

Together the couple had three children.

"There are days when I want to stay in bed and do nothing and shut the world out, but I know that that's not what Bernal would want us to do," Peete-Smith said.

This year, the newspaper celebrated its 66th anniversary.

As a member of TSD's board of directors, Peete-Smith said the paper's transition and mission moving into 2018 includes advancing signature events such as Women of Excellence, Men of Excellence, and Best in Black.

"We have sat down and we have some goals this year that we are looking to accomplish. We are looking to bring executive leadership on over the next couple of months. We just want to see the vitality of the paper grow," she said.

She shared what she misses most about Bernal's voice in the community.

"He was endlessly optimistic about where he wanted to be in this world. He was endlessly optimistic about Memphis as a whole," Peete-Smith said.

Memphis recently made national headlines with the controversial removal of Confederate statues. Towanda said she's certain her husband would have been in the thick of the coverage.

"He would've been on Facebook Live because that was his thing. He would've went live showing just how we are moving and how we are evolving," she explained.

Recognizing the paper's rich history and powerful influence in the Mid-South, Towanda said she wants the publication to continue to advocate for truth and elevate its readers.

"We need people in this community to know that the paper will not thrive, it cannot stay here in the city, if we don't get behind it and rally behind it," Peete-Smith said.

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