Bill Brooks, former vice president of corporate affairs at General Motors who launched a diversity program for GM employees, died Monday.
He was 85, Paulina Johnson, president of the National Black MBA Association's Detroit chapter, where Brooks was a founding member, confirmed in an email to Automotive News.
"It is no accident when people make it to the top," Brooks said in 1997. "Somebody is watching them and working with them. It was my job to make sure that happens to women and minorities."
From ironing out a deal with the president of Namibia to sell trucks in the African country, to upping the loans given to minority suppliers through Motor Enterprises Inc., a former GM subsidiary that provided funding for GM suppliers, Brooks handled a range of duties during his time with the automaker before retiring in 1997.
In 1973, Brooks began his career at GM. He left in 1989 to be assistant secretary of labor in the Employment Standards Administration.
In 1990, GM Chairman Robert Stempel persuaded him to return to help increase the number of women in truck engineering and design, Automotive News reported in 1997.
In addition to being tasked with integrating truck operations, Brooks was named vice president of community affairs in 1994.
He axed the Urban Affairs Department, which was in charge of a small budget for blacks and Hispanics.
"I thought African Americans should be included in the whole pie," he said in 1997.
Besides being civic leader and an advocate for black entrepreneurs, Brooks was called in to rehabilitate Lason Inc. and United American Healthcare Corp., two ailing Detroit area companies, according to a Crain's Minority Business All-stars profile from 2004. He unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Detroit in 2001.
Brooks also served on public boards of Louisiana-Pacific Corp., DTE Energy Co. and Covansys Corp., and held leadership positions in nonprofit and community organizations. He also was a retired U.S. Air Force officer.
The funeral is 11 a.m. Tuesday at Sacred Heart Church, 1000 Eliot St., Detroit.
Annalise Frank contributed to this report.