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 Wednesday after a four-year bout with 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 the automaker's top lawyer in 1977. At the time, the corporation was under attack on several legal and regulatory fronts, including accusations of tax fraud and lawsuits by consumers angry about the substitution of engines from one car division in models from another GM division. "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 started his legal career as an assistant prosecutor in Flint, Mich. He came to statewide attention in 1957 when he was appointed to the Public Service Commission by Gov. G. Mennen Williams. He served as chairman of the commission from 1957 to 1959, auditor general of Michigan from 1959 to 1961 and a justice of the Supreme
Court of Michigan from 1961 to 1966. After that, he joined the GM legal staff.
Dr. Charles Moertel, 66, a giant in the field of cancer research at the Mayo Clinic, died Monday at his Rochester, Minn., home after a lengthy illness. "If there's a leader in the history of the Mayo Clinic, he's one of those people," said his eldest son, Charles, of Ann Arbor, Mich. Dr. Charles O'Connell, chairman of the Mayo Clinic's oncology department and a longtime colleague, said Dr. Moertel's reputation was international in scope. "He had a passionate desire to perform clinical studies with the intent to improve the quality of life and survival rates for cancer patients," Dr. O'Connell said. "If the innovations he developed were applied to all patients in the country who develop colo-rectal cancer, more than 10,000 lives would be saved annually." Dr. Moertel was a frequent critic of drug company pricing practices that made treating cancer more expensive and was a foe of researchers who made claims unsupported by research data.