By Erick Johnson (Chicago Crusader/NNPA Member)
The Black Press celebrated the life and legacy John B. Smith, Sr., the publisher and CEO of The Atlanta Inquirer during a memorial service earlier this month. Smith died on Thursday, April 27, 2017.
Smith was buried at the Abbey Mausoleum at Westview Cemetery. A virtual Who’s Who of Black America paid their respects to the publisher during a ceremony at the Martin Luther King Jr., International Chapel on May 6.
Reverend Dr. Richard Wayne Wills, the senior pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Atlanta presided over the services, while the renowned Harding Epps, Jr., the minister of music at First Baptist Church of East Point, provided well-chosen music for the solemn occasion. Several guests delivered remarks including: Ed Perry of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company; Charles Rousseau, the Fayette County Commissioner (District 4); Lonnie King, Jr., and Charles A. Black from the Atlanta Student Movement; and Xernona Clayton, the founder of the Trumpet Awards and the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame.
Dorothy R. Leavell, the editor and publisher of the Crusader Newspapers in Chicago and Gary, Ind., and former chairwoman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation (NNPA) and Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., the current president and CEO of the NNPA spoke as they were joined by members of the association in attendance, including: Denise Rolark Barnes, the chairperson of NNPA and publisher of The Washington Informer; Rosetta Perry, publisher of The Tennessee Tribune; Jackie Hampton, publisher of The Mississippi Link; Walter Smith, publisher of the New York Beacon; Al McFarlane, publisher of Insight News in Minneapolis, Minn.; and Janis Ware, publisher of The Atlanta Voice. The speakers shared high praise for “J.B.” Smith, echoing that he was a kind, honest and decent man and also that he was a man of many talents and many contributions from fighting for civil rights to success in the publishing industry. John Eaves, the chair of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, Atlanta city council President Ceasar C. Mitchell and councilmembers “C. T.” Martin and Michael Julian Bond also delivered brief remarks
Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, Jr., the senior pastor emeritus of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio in his “Words of Comfort” reflected on J.B.’s life as the two grew up as friends in Lagrange, Ga. Moss talked about their boyhood and their escapades as newspaper boys and schoolmates. His recollection was vivid and interesting as he shared the stories, punctuated with highlights from Smith’s life of good works.
The Chicago Crusader is a member publication of the National Newspaper Publishers Association. Learn more about becoming a member at www.nnpa.org.