Civil rights advocate Felmers Chaney dead at 94

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Felmers Chaney (Courtesy Milwaukee Community Journal)

MILWAUKEE — Civil rights advocate Felmers Chaney has died at age 94. 

Chaney’s 30-plus-year career with the Milwaukee Police Department included becoming the first African-American Sergeant in the history of that department. He also served as director for the Better Business Bureau, the Commando Project, and USO. He was a former president of the Urban League as well as the local NAACP chapter.

Chaney remained active in community activities during his retirement. It included acting as chairman for the community advisory board for the Milwaukee Women’s Correctional Center/Marshal E. Sherrer Correctional Center Community Advisory Board. He was also a member of the Milwaukee Economic Development Corporation Board, Wisconsin Crime Victims Council Board, the NAACP Board, and the Urban League.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett issued this statement: “Milwaukee has lost one of its most prominent and influential citizens. Felmers Chaney was an accomplished leader and a passionate advocate. He was a tireless champion of civil rights who dedicated his life to enriching the lives of fellow Milwaukeeans. His influence was wide-spread and he had a profound impact on countless Milwaukee organizations and institutions. I will miss his distinguished presence and his invaluable insight.” 

Common Council President Willie Hines issued this statement: “Felmers Chaney was an iconic figure and trailblazer in the history of the Milwaukee Police Department, and he later took that same spirit of courage and leadership to the Milwaukee branch of the NAACP, where (as president) he fought for civil rights and liberties and against police abuse and school segregation. He leaves a strong and positive legacy for others to follow – a legacy that I believe will live on for many years. He was married for more than 70 years to Jessie, and my sincere condolences go out to her and to the entire family at this difficult time.”

A men’s correctional center on Milwaukee’s north side was dedicated with Chaney’s name in October 2000.