Edward Whitacre Jr., 67, eventually will replace Kent Kresa, who will remain GM's interim chairman until the reorganized automaker emerges as a new company that's majority-owned by the U.S. government.
Whitacre was chairman and chief executive of AT&T and its predecessor companies from 1990 to 2007. During his tenure, he led the company through several acquisitions and sales.
Whitacre sits on the boards of Exxon Mobil Corp. and the railroad company Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp.
GM says Whitacre will join the nucleus of a new GM board that will include Kresa and current members Philip A. Laskawy, Kathryn V. Marinello, Erroll B. Davis, Jr., E. Neville Isdell and CEO Fritz Henderson.
The remaining six members of the current GM board will "most likely retire" by the time most of GM's assets are sold to the new GM in bankruptcy court, the company said in a statement.
Kresa is leading a selection process to pick four new directors, while the Canadian government, which also is providing financial aid to the company, will pick a board member and a United Auto Workers union retiree health care trust will select another.
That will bring the board of the new company to 13 members, GM's statement said.
Kresa, a GM board member since 2003, was named interim chairman after Rick Wagoner was forced out earlier this year as chairman and CEO by the Obama administration's autos task force.
Fritz Henderson, GM's former president and chief operating officer, was named CEO and continues in that role.
GM has been operating under bankruptcy protection since last week as it seeks to reorganize and shed unwanted assets. So far it has received about $20 billion in loans from the U.S. government.