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Dallas Remembers Former Councilman Leo Chaney

Former Dallas City Councilman Leo Chaney will lie in repose in the Hall of State at Fair Park Friday from noon until 7 pm. Services are at 11 am Saturday at the True Lee Mission Baptist Church. Chaney was found dead after a fire in his home Monday afternoon. 

Part of Leo Chaney's legacy is Opportunity Park, on Malcolm X Boulevard a few blocks from his home.  Parks Department director Willis Winters say Chaney was passionate about parks in his South Dallas district, especially this one.

“His vision of Opportunity was as series of interpretive panels and commissions that would interpret the black history of South Dallas,” Winters said.

It may have been one of the toughest accomplishments for Chaney. There was controversy over whose names would be engraved on a commissioned sculpture, and what it would look like.

George Harris lives across the street and enjoys the peaceful, manicured park. He’s thankful Chaney was able to work things out. And, that’s not all he appreciates about Leo Chaney.

“He was my tutor when I had to get my GED at the Martin Luther King Center, " Harris recalled.  "You know, he took care of the community.  He watched over everyone.  He was just like a fellowship, you know.”

Chaney served on the Dallas City Council from 1999 to 2007.  His nickname was The Big Cat. Current council member Jerry Allen says before he decided to run for election, he studied Leo Chaney.

“Leo was really just a class act. To me, that’s the way I sum him up," Allen said. "He was a big gentleman. He had presence about him. But he was also soft, always stood up for the people. That’s what I remember about Leo.”

Chaney was a graduate of James Madison High School – or the ‘great’ James Madison High School as he always called it. He had political science and law degrees from Howard University; was a community relations specialist for the Dallas school district for more than 20 years; and served on the City Plan Commission before being elected to the council.

Veletta Lill was a colleague on the council.

“It was a privilege to serve with Leo, Lill said as she spoke before the City Council on Wednesday. "He was a great man, a great council members and passionate about his service.  He was always a friend of the arts and preservation. So, we thank him for all those things."

Leo Chaney was 62.   He is survived by his wife Phyliss, four sons, four grand children, his father Leo V. Chaney, Sr. and four siblings. 

Former KERA reporter BJ Austin spent more than 25 years in broadcast journalism, anchoring and reporting in Atlanta, New York, New Orleans and Dallas. Along the way, she covered Atlanta City Hall, the Georgia Legislature and the corruption trials of Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.