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Apple elects former Boeing exec to board

James Bell, who worked for the aircraft maker for 38 years, becomes Apple's sole African-American director.

Bell is an experienced director. He already serves on the boards of JPMorgan Chase, Dow Chemical and CDW. Boeing

Apple named James A. Bell, who had been the highest-ranking African-American employee in Boeing's history, to its board Thursday.

Bell retired as chief financial officer for the aircraft maker in 2012 after a 38-year career there. He also served as interim CEO at Boeing in 2005.

"James brings a wealth of global, financial and industrial experience from his successful career at Boeing as corporate president and CFO," Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement. "I am thrilled to welcome him to Apple's board of directors."

Bell will add diversity to Apple's eight-member board, serving as its sole African-American member. Along with Bell, the board includes two women: Grameen America CEO Andrea Jung and BlackRock co-founder Susan Wagner. Its other members are Cook, former US vice president Al Gore, Disney CEO Robert Iger, former Genentech CEO Arthur Levinson (who serves as chairman) and Ronald Sugar, former CEO of Northrop Grumman, which like Boeing is a defense contractor.

The company in August said it's made progress hiring more women and underrepresented minorities in the past year. Apple and many other major Silicon Valley firms have been working to balance their predominantly white and male composition.

Apple's newest board member should bring some additional manufacturing chops to the most valuable company in the world, which is rumored to be developing a car. Still, don't expect Bell to help Apple make an airplane. Asked earlier this week at the BoxWorks conference if Apple was working on a plane, Cook joked, "We don't have an iPlane."

Bell is a board member at JPMorgan Chase, Dow Chemical and CDW, and a trustee of Chicago's Rush University Medical Center.

"I am an avid user of Apple products and have a tremendous respect for the company's ability to innovate," Bell said in a statement. "I am delighted to join the Apple board."

The board addition continues a series of changes there as Cook forges his path forward since taking over for co-founder Steve Jobs in August 2011. Millard "Mickey" Drexler, who had served as an Apple director since 1999, retired from the board in March. In July of last year, Intuit Chairman Bill Campbell, who had been on the board since 1997, retired from his role, with Wagner taking his place.