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Otis M. SmithMichigan justiceOtis M. Smith, 72,...


Otis M. Smith

Michigan justice

Otis M. Smith, 72, the first black to serve on the Michigan Supreme Court and the first to be named a corporate officer of General Motors Corp., died in his sleep at his home in Detroit on Wednesday of prostate cancer. He retired from GM in 1984 as vice president and general counsel. He became one of the highest-ranking blacks in corporate America when Thomas Murphy, GM's chairman, appointed him as the automaker's top lawyer in 1977.

At the time the corporation was under attack on several legal and regulatory fronts. "I don't ignore the obvious," Mr. Smith said at the time of his appointment as general counsel, "but I like to think color didn't play a part."

He served as a justice of the Supreme Court of Michigan from 1961 to 1966.

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