Philanthropist, former Brenau trustee Jim Mathis Jr. dies

James Mathis Jr.

James “Jim” Mathis Jr., a Gainesville, Georgia, businessman, philanthropist and former trustee of Brenau University, died Jan. 29 at age 77.

Mathis, a Brenau trustee from 1992 to 2019, was president of SunTrust Bank of North Georgia from 1977 to 1995. He also served as president of the North Georgia Community Foundation, which supports nonprofit organizations and donors by building and distributing philanthropic assets in the region; he worked with the foundation for more than 20 years.

Mathis, Steve Gilliam and Mary Hart Wilheit were instrumental in bringing Olympic canoe/kayak and rowing competitions to Lake Lanier for the 1996 Games. The venue remains in use today as a recreational and competition site.

He served on numerous boards including the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, Gainesville/Hall County Development Authority, Northeast Georgia Medical Center Strategic Planning Committee, Gainesville Community Development Advisory Committee, Lanier Park Regional Hospital, Elachee Advisory Board, Gainesville College Advisory Board, and Main Street Gainesville Board of Directors.

In his LinkedIn profile, Mathis expressed his dedication to philanthropy, which he also instilled in his family: “I am very fortunate to love my job. Helping friends and neighbors achieve their philanthropic goals and working with the nonprofit community in North Georgia is very rewarding. I also am fortunate to have a wonderful family. My wife and daughters care about their community and work to make it a better place. Their community service follows a family tradition of ‘paying a little rent” in life.’”

His awards and accolades include Jaycees Young Man of the Year in 1981 and Rotary Club Man of the Year in 1997.

Mathis earned a bachelor’s degree from Mercer University and was commissioned as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army upon graduation. He served as assistant post information officer at Fort Gordon, Georgia, and as assistant adjutant of the 8th Army Signal Group in Seoul, Korea. After completing his military service, Mathis worked as an aide for U.S. Congressman Phil Landrum in Washington, D.C. He also pursued graduate studies in banking, including at Georgetown University.

A memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 4, at Lake Lanier Olympic Park at 3105 Clarks Bridge Road in Gainesville. The family will receive well-wishers following the ceremony. Memorial Park Riverside Chapel is in charge of arrangements. For online condolences visit