Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Former City Council Member Leo V. Chaney, Dead at Age 62

The Honorable Leo V. Chaney, the former Dallas City Council member who represented District 7, which includes South Dallas, died yesterday in a fire at his South Dallas home.

Chaney was yet another politician with whom I was proud to work. Oh, don't get me wrong, we didn't always agree. But I think that's because as a preacher and pastor in the area, I had the luxury of being far more idealistic. Chaney was a politician and was more practical. But there were two things I liked about Leo: he loved South Dallas and he delivered. When you drive down Bexar Street which runs along the western side of the church I served, the redevelopment you see taking place Leo who made sure the money to start was there. It was $750,000 in CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) funds, meant for the area, but held hostage by the Mayor. Chaney shepherded the process that allocated the funds for the redevelopment, which is a basic design developed by the area's T.R. Hoover Community Development Corporation.

He was really excited when I invited him to come to our church one week night, to share with our congregation to show our members and leaders the plan for Bexar Street and talk about what the development would mean for the area. We didn't have the number of people in attendance that I'd hoped to have, but Leo graciously offered to come back again.

And I guess that's the point. Chaney cared for his constituents. I remember him speaking with great affection about 'the little old ladies' who ran the neighborhood associations in his district. He genuinely liked them and they liked and respected him. Oh, don't get me wrong. If they didn't like what he was doing they had no problem letting him know it. And he was took their praise or their wrath seriously, without patronizing them.

As much as I, and some others thought projects in the area should have been more massive and comprehensive, Chaney knew what was possible and whatever was possible, is what he got done. He built on the efforts of the late Charlotte Mayes before him and Diane Ragsdale before that. I think he actually felt the weighty significance of serving in a position that he inherited as a trust from Elsie Faye Heggins and Juanita Craft, and for eight years, I really believe he did his best.

The Chaney family is a well respected, prominent business family. Chaney's brother succeeded my grandfather as a pastor in east Dallas after his retirement. Leo saw this public service as a council member as the responsibility to contribute to the community in which he grew and which nurtured him.

Some people die in ways that really give no implication of significance of their lives. They either die ingloriously, or sometimes in ways so ordinary that they actually seem larger than their deaths. Chaney's death was like that. To say he died in a house fire is say it was accidental. Chaney, who was 62 years old and who served eight years on the council, seems bigger than any 'accident'. His contribution were outsized by comparison. The community he served, indeed all of Dallas, has a better future because of his work.

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