MEMPHIS, Tenn. — For more than 65 years, the Tri State Defender newspaper has been an important news and information voice particularly for African-American residents throughout Memphis.
Under the leadership of Bernal Smith II, who took over as president and publisher in 2010, the paper began to chart a new course in the digital age of mass media. Three years later, Smith engineered the purchase of the paper, giving it local ownership for the time in its storied history.
All the while, the Tri State, as most of its loyal readers call it, has continued its legacy of covering significant stories that the city's daily papers either missed or ignored.
So it is understandable that there is an outpouring of tributes to Smith's life after his passing Sunday. The newspaper's management and board spoke for all of us who knew Bernal by saying we are devastated by the loss of a good friend - and an outstanding business and civic leader.
Smith took over the Tri State after an impressive career in business the finance. He oversaw the paper's transformation to a digital media company with strong local ownership, while also expanding his own profile as a leading voice on community issues.
Without a doubt, Memphis and the Mid-South has lost a true civic champion.