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St. Jude honors Bernal Smith II at St. Jude Spirit of the Dream event hosted by actress Elise Neal

Entertainment included a live performance by singer songwriter Raheem DeVaughn

Memphis, Tennessee, Feb. 28, 2018

A C Wharton presenting the Spirit of the Dream award

Former Memphis Mayor A C Wharton presented the St. Jude Spirit of the Dream award posthumously to Bernal E. Smith II. Smith's widow, Towanda Peete-Smith, accepted the award on his behalf.

Around 300 people celebrated Black History Month at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for the third annual St. Jude Spirit of the Dream event on Tuesday, Feb. 27. Organized in partnership with the National Pan-Hellenic Council Memphis Metropolitan Area, the event celebrated the achievements and contributions that African Americans have made to the St. Jude legacy.

Emceed by Elise Neal, the cocktail event featured art, a live performance from Raheem DeVaughn, dancing and complimentary hors d'oeuvres.

The highlight of the evening was the announcement of a new Spirit of the Dream Award that posthumously honored Bernal Smith II, president and publisher of the New Tri-State Defender. The award recognizes people who support the dreams of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and champion the lifesaving mission of St. Jude: Finding cures. Saving children.®

When describing Smith, guests remembered him for how he empowered the city's majority African-American population to make a difference. Others described him as “Memphis through and through,” and as “a passionate and persuasive voice for the city he loved.”

“Although young in years, Bernal possessed a purposefulness and power of discernment, far beyond his years. He loved Memphis, accepted it with its challenges, but dreamed of the fulfillment of its potential," said A C Wharton, former Mayor of Memphis. “It is often said that old men dream dreams and young men see visions. Bernal had both, dreams of what our city could become and visions of the joy we would witness once Memphis became truly the place where every man woman and child would drink plentifully from God’s bounty.” 

There was also a special presentation related to the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers. Among the honorees were Ozell Ueal, Rev. Cleophus Smith, Baxter Leach, Elmore Nickelberry and H.B. Crockett. The sanitation workers were the catalyst during the civil rights movement to safer working conditions for black and white workers, improved labor representation, and their “I AM A MAN” strike.

“As Memphis and the nation recognize the 50th anniversary of the sanitation workers’ strike and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., ALSAC and St. Jude are proud to recognize the lifelong work and achievement of Bernal Smith II,” said Richard C. Shadyac, President and CEO of ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude. “Our founder Danny Thomas believed no child should die in the dawn of life and that all children deserved a fighting chance regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or ability to pay — and Bernal Smith certainly shared similar values in tirelessly dedicating his time and talents to equality and advancement for all.”

Also during the event, guests learned that ALSAC/St. Jude will commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination throughout 2018, including expanding employee community service efforts and promoting positive social change through its external events in Memphis and throughout the country.

Event sponsors included: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, Cigna, Black & Veatch, City of Memphis, Allworld, Ampro Industries, Allen & Hoshall, Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, Kappa Alpha Psi Greenville Alumni, National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Event Rentals by Hicks, L3Media, Eagle Distributing, Pyramid Wine and Spirits, Pinot’s Palette, D. Arthur’s Catering, McBride Sisters and Mahaffey Tent & Event Rentals.

About St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is leading the way the world understands, treats and defeats childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Its purpose is clear: Finding cures. Saving children.® It is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children. Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20% to more than 80% since the hospital opened in 1962. St. Jude won't stop until no child dies from cancer. St. Jude shares the discoveries it makes, and every child saved at St. Jude means doctors and scientists worldwide can use that knowledge to save thousands more children. Because of generous donors, families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food, so they can focus on helping their child live. Visit St. Jude Inspire to discover powerful St. Jude stories of hope, strength, love and kindness. Join the St. Jude mission by visiting, liking St. Jude on Facebook, following St. Jude on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and TikTok, and subscribing to its YouTube channel.