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Black exec rejected; GM's CEO quits club

The president and chief executive of General Motors Corp. has resigned from the Bloomfield Hills Country Club after a black vice president of GM was denied membership in the club, an exclusive bastion of the auto industry's top executives.

John F. Smith Jr., GM's president, resigned from the club after the application of Roy S. Roberts, a black vice president and the general manager of the GMC Truck Division, was rejected.

Members of the club, although none agreed to speak for the record, expressed disappointment and frustration that the events may be construed _ wrongly, in their view _ as racism. They insisted that Roberts was refused admission for reasons other than his race, though they declined to elaborate.

The club's president, Delano DeWindt II, said, "We're a private club. Our membership practices are non-discriminatory." He declined to answer questions.

Like most prominent and exclusive clubs, the Bloomfield Hills Country Club has recently responded to growing pressure to admit black people, women and members of ethnic groups.

Two years ago Leroy C. Richey, a black vice president and general counsel for Chrysler Corp., became a member. Richey also is general counsel to the U.S. Golf Association.

Roberts, 55, who began his career as a factory worker and once was plant manager of the GM assembly plant in North Tarrytown, N.Y., was proposed for membership several months ago by J. Michael Losh, GM's chief financial officer.

Losh, in response to a question last week at a news briefing on GM's third-quarter financial results, acknowledged that he also had resigned from the club "several weeks ago."