Former Dallas City Council member Leo Chaney dies in fire

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by REBECCA LOPEZ and JASON WHITELY

Bio | Email | Follow: @jasonwhitely

WFAA

Posted on August 12, 2013 at 6:17 PM

Updated Monday, Aug 12 at 10:44 PM

Fatal fire

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DALLAS — Former Dallas City Council member Leo Chaney Jr. died in a house fire at his home on Monday afternoon.

Firefighters found him in a bathroom of the South Dallas residence in the 2700 block of South Boulevard around 2:15 p.m.

Family members said paramedics performed CPR on Chaney and transported him to Baylor University Medical Center, but he died there of smoke inhalation.

"I saw smoke coming through the windows at the top of the house, but there was no flames that were visible," said Keldrick Brown, who was riding his bicycle to his pastor's house next door to Chaney's.

That pastor, Jim Elam, said he smelled something burning while walking through his own home and initially thought a fire had started in his house. Only after going to retrieve a ladder outside in his shed to check his attic did he see the smoke coming from Chaney's house.

"My wife came out and I told her to call 911," Elam said.

Shattered window panes and a couple of burned mattresses on the front lawn are the only evidence of what happened inside Chaney's house.

Something sparked an electrical fire and Chaney, 62, could not escape from his bathroom, according to friends.

"They really tried to revive him here on the premises as well as on the way to the hospital," said Rep. Barbara Mallory Caraway, (D-State House District 110).

Chaney served eight years on Dallas City Council from 1999 to 2007, alongside Caraway herself. Chaney represented South Dallas, the community where he grew up. 

He was a practical politician who built coalitions, Caraway recalled. He left office due to term limits.

Chaney was perhaps best known for promoting housing in southern Dallas, specifically in his community.

"I think that we will remember him as a person who gave his all," Caraway explained. "He served on the Plan Commission. He worked at DISD. He was a public servant."

Chaney returned to Dallas ISD and worked as a substitute teacher at Skyline High School. 

That was Chaney's plan after politics, friends said --  to spend time with his family.

No one expected that would come to such a tragic end in the house he called home for decades.

E-mail rlopez@wfaa.com and jwhitely@wfaa.com

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