December 3, 2007
Former GM Chairman and CEO Roger Smith dies at 82
Detroit, Michigan – Former General Motors Chairman and CEO Roger B. Smith, who led the company in the 1980s through a period of significant change, passed away on November 29 in Detroit after a brief illness. He was 82.
Smith was appointed to the position on January 1, 1981, which he held until his retirement on July 31, 1990. Smith directed GM during a revolutionary period in the auto industry, including expanding global business, new environmental and safety standards and increased competition from import brands. During his tenure, GM introduced its first front-wheel drive mid-sized cars, formed the joint venture NUMMI with Toyota in California, created Saturn, and acquired Electronic Data Systems and Hughes Aircraft Corporation. Prior to being elected chairman, Smith had been an executive vice president and a member of the GM Board of Directors since December 1, 1974.
“Roger Smith led GM during a period of tremendous innovation in the industry,” said Rick Wagoner, GM Chairman and CEO. “He was a leader who knew that we have to accept change, understand change, and learn to make it work for us. Roger was truly a pioneer in the fast-moving global industry that we now take for granted.”
Smith began his GM career in 1949 as a general accounting clerk in the Detroit Central Office. After a series of promotions, he became treasurer of the Corporation in 1970 and vice-president in charge of the Financial Staff and a member of the Administration Committee in 1971. The following year, he became vice-president and group executive in charge of the Non-Automotive and Defense Group. In 1974, he was elected executive vice-president, with responsibility for the Financial, Public Relations, and Industry-Government Relations Staffs.
In February 1978, he was the originator of the General Motors Cancer Research Awards, designed to recognize basic and clinical scientists throughout the world for hallmark accomplishments in research on the cause, prevention and treatment of cancer. He is survived by Barbara, his wife of 53 years, and four children and six grandchildren.