Compiled by MCJ Staff
Felmers O. Chaney, Milwaukee’s first African American police sergeant and long-time president of the Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP is dead at age 94.
A lifetime champion for civil rights, Chaney devoted his life to Milwaukee’s Black community, improving the quality of life and ensuring that the voices of the disenfranchised are represented and heard.
Born in Spooner, WI, Chaney was the first African American graduate of that town’s high school. A veteran of WWII, Chaney was a MPD officer for more than 36 years. He became noted for keeping order on Walnut Street, which he patrolled.
Chaney wore other hats besides that of a police officer. He served as president of the Central City Development Corporation, CEO of the North Milwaukee state Bank, director of the Better Business Bureau, the Commando Project and USO. He is also a former president of the Milwaukee Urban League.
As president of the Milwaukee NAACP, Chaney fought tirelessly for equal and civil rights, participating in or leading many demonstrations on behalf of civil and human rights, from working to have Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday declared a national holiday, fighting against apartheid, to creating greater opportunities for Black Milwaukeeans in the trades.
Even after he retired from the police department, Chaney remained active in community activities including serving as acting chairman for the community advisory board for the Milwaukee Women’s Center/Marshal E. Sherrer Correctional Center Community Advisory Board, a member of the Milwaukee Economic Development Corporation Board, and the Wisconsin Crime Victims Council Board.
In 2000, then Gov. Tommy Thompson dedicated Milwaukee’s then new Men’s Correctional Center after Chaney, the Felmers O. Chaney Correctional Center.
Thompson cited Chaney’s community service work and distinguished record when dedicating the facility, noting that the facility embraces the belief that Chaney held: People can change if they are given the opportunity, the resources and the direction.
Funeral services are tentatively slated for Friday and Saturday at the Williamson Funeral Home. Chaney is survived by his wife, Jessie Chaney, and a sister.