Charles D. Walters Theatre on the Square

Brenau’s Theatre on the Square named for James “Big Jim” Walters’ brother Charles

Mar 26, 2021
Ben McDade

Brenau University recently announced the naming of the Charles D. Walters Theatre on the Square, made possible through a generous gift from the late Gainesville businessman and philanthropist James A. “Big Jim” Walters in honor of his younger brother, Charles.

The elder Walters passed away on Feb. 22 after an extended illness. Charles Walters died last summer in Greenville, South Carolina. Both brothers were known for their business acumen and generosity, especially in their respective communities.

Walters secured the naming rights for the theatre as part of Brenau’s successful ForeverGold campaign, which concluded in 2018 having secured more than $42.39 million for the growth of the university. Walters’ gift closed out the Brenau University Downtown Center portion of the campaign. He decided to name the theatre for his younger brother in December 2020.

“I only knew Jim for a brief time, but I will never forget the kindness he showed me when I arrived in Gainesville, and I will be forever thankful for his personal and professional support,” said Brenau University President Anne Skleder. “Jim’s generosity is well-known. The naming of the Charles D. Walters Theatre on the Square is an especially heartfelt gift and tribute to his brother from a gentleman with such a big heart for his family and his community. Brenau is honored that Jim wanted to memorialize his brother Charles through the naming of this theatre that is a jewel for the Brenau and Gainesville communities.”

Jim Walters served on Brenau’s board of trustees beginning in 2002 in a variety of roles including board secretary and as a member of the external relations and executive committees. He was awarded an honorary doctorate in 2006 by the university.

Jim Walters’ name is on many local buildings, including the J.A. Walters YMCA, The Walters Athletic Center at Lakeview Academy, The Walters Allied Health building on the campus of Lanier Tech and the Walters Auditorium at Northeast Georgia Medical Center. State Senator Butch Miller, R Gainesville, is spearheading an effort to name the intersection of Georgia 365 at Lanier Tech Drive in northeast Hall the J.A. “Big Jim” Walters Intersection in honor of the late Gainesville businessman and philanthropist.

Many experienced Walters’ generosity outside the public eye. Brenau University Board of Trustees Chair Mike Smith said that Walters had a big heart and a keen mind for business.

“There are few people who have impacted Gainesville and Hall County more than Big Jim Walters,” Smith said. “He possessed that unique combination of a shrewd businessman who knew how to make a dollar and a philanthropist who knew how a dollar could impact the greater good for so many. He will be missed greatly, but his positive impact will continue for Brenau and her students”

Walters and Charles were kindred spirits in that regard as the younger Walters left his mark in the finance industry from North Carolina to Texas. He eventually settled in Greenville, South Carolina, after he and his wife of almost 60 years, Pam, sold their business, Pioneer Loans of Texas, to World Acceptance Corp., headquartered in Greenville, where he rose to become president, CEO and chairman of the board. He also successfully led a management buy out from First Union Corp. in 1989 and was successful in taking the company public in 1991. Upon retirement, he was named Chairman Emeritus.

His generosity was also well-known. His obituary read that he, “had a very tender heart that gave so much to his family, friends and others over the years that it finally wore out.”