He is also a former Managing Director at Reliant Equity Investors. He is considered a pioneer for African-Americans in the auto industry. He once told Forbes magazine, "I"ve been the first black everywhere I went.
One of my jobs is to see I"m not the last."
An August 1988 article published in The New York Times stated Roberts was the second African-American vice-president at General Motors. (Otis Smith was the first) Foreign much of his career he was the highest-ranking African-American in the automobile industry.
Roberts began his professional career working on an assembly line at Lear Siegler while attending Western Michigan University. In addition to the executive positions he has held in his professional career, Roberts has also played important roles while serving in numerous volunteer and civic organizations.
Roberts was born in 1939, the ninth of ten children, in Magnolia, Arkansas. His mother died when he was two years old and later his father moved the family to Muskegon, Michigan.
He describes his upbringing as "dirt-poor." His father worked two jobs (as a foundry employee and as a barber) to support the family.
Roberts credits his father with instilling in him the value of education. Roberts worked full-time while attending Western Michigan University at night, where he graduated with honors, with a Bachelor"s degree in Business Administration. Roberts unwillingly found himself at the center of a controversial event at the Bloomfield Hills Country Club in 1994 when the club refused to admit him after he had applied for membership.
Though the club claimed its actions were not based on Roberts" race, G.M."s president, John F. Smith Junior., and its chief financial officer, J. Michael Losh, chose to resign their memberships with the club because Roberts had been barred from joining.
Later, however, Roberts was accepted as a member.