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My time with Councilman Leo Chaney Jr.

Casey Thomas | 8/25/2013, 11:38 p.m.
Casey Thomas

The Dallas Examiner

I received a phone call last Aug. 12 about 6 p.m. It was from a couple of friends I talk to all the time, so I thought no big deal. However, shortly after I answered I could tell this would not be the usual conversation. I was told at that time that former Dallas City Councilman Leo Chaney Jr. had passed. I was in total shock and disbelief until I turned on my computer and read the story on The Dallas Morning News website.

I immediately ran upstairs to tell my wife but I knew that she wasn’t feeling very well at that time. After giving it plenty of consideration, I knew that she would want to know, regardless of how she was feeling. When I told her, she was just as shocked as I was. We began to think about how close we had become to the Chaney family and how he was always respectful to her.

After talking with her I began to call some of the Chaney family members, whose telephone numbers that I had. No answer. I then began to think back on my relationship with him. Shortly after I began to get active politically in my community, I would meet with Chaney and let him know that I wanted to learn more about politics in the city of Dallas. He would continuously ask me if I was serious, and I would tell him that I was. He began to explain to me his journey, which would end with him serving on the Dallas City Council and as national president of NBCBlack Caucus of Local Elected Officials.

Leo Chaney graduated from Howard University, where he got his undergraduate degree and would go on to get his law degree from there as well. He explained to me that when he was just out of college, he was appointed to serve as the Democratic precinct chair for his neighborhood. He would be groomed by those around him to serve in political office. The Progressive Voter’s League, an organization made up of Black precinct chairs in the southern part of the party, would be the training ground for many of our past and present elected officials, including Chaney.

After seeing how serious I was about getting started, he appointed me to serve on the Community Development Commission, a city board that is responsible for recommending how federal grant money should be allocated to improve neighborhoods and to support businesses. After being away for a short time, I am back on this board today.

I have had the opportunity to serve in several different leadership roles in the city of Dallas, and before I would run for any office or seek any position, I would always go in and talk with him about it. He would always offer encouragement and would answer any questions that I had. Even when I knew Chaney was serving in his last term on the Dallas City Council, I gave serious consideration to moving my family to South Dallas and running for his council seat.

He always had an open ear to listen no matter what the concern may have been. I valued his opinion and leaned on his advice when it came to important decisions regarding politics or community involvement. I will truly miss the conversations we would have and how he would always ask about my wife and kids. He knew that no matter what contribution you made to the community, if you didn’t keep your family first, you would be out of balance. So, well done my friend, you made a difference in my life and so many others. Instead of focusing on how you lost your life, we will always remember how you lived your life. Good night, Big Cat! Take your rest. You have truly earned it.