DALLAS — A small church was packed with people Saturday who all had a story to tell about former Dallas City Council member Leo Chaney Jr., who died in a fire at his home last Monday.
He was 62.
Chaney made a big impact on his community and the people in it — including current Council member Carolyn Davis.
"Leo made things happen. Leo gave me my opportunity," she said. "He believed in a young 21, 27, 28-year-old sister who just tried to make a difference in the neighborhood where she lived."
Chaney served eight years on the Dallas City Council from 1999 to 2007, but his remarkable life came to a tragic end Monday in the very community he spent a lifetime working to improve.
A fire broke out at his South Dallas home. Trapped in the bathroom, he later died of smoke inhalation at the hospital.
Mourners said Chaney loved Dallas, and he loved South Dallas. He was known for his efforts to bring affordable housing and expanded DART service to the area.
"What a gentle, kind, but serious man he was," said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, who got to know Chaney while working with him to curb homelessness in the city.
"I think South Dallas proper is coming into its own," the mayor said. "It's got so much going for it, and he laid the foundation."
"He worked very hard to make some very positive things happen in our community," said Pastor Donald Parish of True Lee Baptist Church. "His tenure on the City Council was really a contributing factor."
Known as a politician who knew how to make connections, Chaney later worked as a substitute teacher at Skyline High School, continuing to serve the public by working with the next generation of leaders.