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Gainesville icon Jim Walters memorialized with statue at Brenau
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A statue of James A. "Jim" Walters is unveiled on the lawn of Brenau University's Walters House Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023, at the corner of Boulevard and Academy Street. - photo by Scott Rogers

The late Jim Walters, a Gainesville business leader and philanthropist, was memorialized Wednesday with a life-sized statue at Brenau University. 

Known fondly as “Big Jim,” Walters, who died at 83 in 2021, is remembered for “his big stature, his big smile, and his big laugh, but also for his big opinions, big advice, and most importantly his big heart,” according to his obituary. 

Now, he has been honored with a big statue on Brenau’s historic Gainesville campus, university spokeswoman Edie Rogers announced in a press release. 

Walters was a former member of Brenau’s Board of Trustees. 

The statue, sculpted by regional artist Gregory Johnson, was gifted to Brenau by friends of Walters. It is the fourth by Johnson on the campus. 

“Jim Walters was one of Brenau’s leading benefactors, but his legacy of support to so many groups will long be felt across the region and across the state,” Brenau President Anne Skleder said as she thanked donors. “I also need to thank John Addison, a new member of our Board of Trustees, and Philip Wilheit, a trustee emeritus, for their leadership in bringing this effort to fruition.”

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Crowds mingle Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023, on the lawn of the Walters House at Brenau University during an unveiling ceremony for a statue of James A. "Jim" Walters. The statue is sculpted by regional artist Gregory Johnson and was gifted by friends of Walters to recognize his impact on the Gainesville-Hall County community. - photo by Scott Rogers

The statue stands on the front lawn of the namesake Walters House at 305 Boulevard. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 1903 house was renamed in 2005 to honor Walters’ gift for capital improvements across the university.

It’s only one of many spaces at Brenau and across Hall County bearing the Walters name in recognition of his philanthropy and community service.

Walters also was instrumental in Brenau acquiring the Downtown Center, formerly known as the Georgia Mountains Center, from the city of Gainesville. Today, the facility houses many of Brenau’s health care programs and serves as the cornerstone of the recently established Downtown Campus.

He was one of Brenau’s leading benefactors, and was recognized by the university during his lifetime with an honorary doctorate and a Distinguished Service to Brenau award.

A native of North Carolina, Walters moved to Gainesville in 1970 and was president and owner of James A. Walters Management Co.

Walters supported the community for decades through service to numerous boards and organizations including the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, Lakeview Academy Board of Directors, Northeast Georgia Medical Center Foundation Board and United Way of Hall County, to name just a few. 

Walters and his wife Peggy, who died in 2022, were married for 60 years and had two daughters and multiple grandchildren.

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A crowd gathers Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023, on the lawn of the Walters House at Brenau University during an unveiling ceremony for a statue of James A. "Jim" Walters. The statue is sculpted by regional artist Gregory Johnson and was gifted by friends of Walters to recognize his impact on the Gainesville-Hall County community. - photo by Scott Rogers