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MEMPHIS — The New Tri-State Defender newspaper says its publisher has died.

The Memphis-based newspaper reports that 45-year-old Bernal E. Smith II died at his home Sunday. Smith's wife, Towanda Smith, said doctors attributed her husband's death to natural causes.

In a statement, Associate Publisher Karanja A. Ajanaku and Best Media Properties President Calvin Anderson said the newspaper and its management board are "devastated."

Best Media Properties is the newspaper's parent company.

The paper covers news affecting the African-American community in Memphis and surrounding areas in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.

Smith was known as a community leader who mentored young men in the inner city. He was a past president of the 100 Black Men of Memphis and founder of the Memphis Academy of Health Sciences charter school.

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