Left, Debra Furtado, CEO of Senior Connections, and right, DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis, present Jim Miller with his award.

Since the late 1970s, Buckhead resident James Miller Jr. has been at the helm of Fidelity Bank, a thriving company with 30 branches that originate loans from Virginia to Texas.

In a time when many banks are closing the doors, Fidelity has flourished, and Miller credits much of that success to the old-fashioned value of treating others the way he’d like to be treated.

“When we started out, we had the idea that we wanted to be here for the long haul, and we wanted to be Atlanta’s bank,” said Miller, 72. “That means you establish relationships. From day one, our watchword has always been the Golden Rule, and it’s that attitude that has helped us grow through this recession instead of shrinking.”

Miller hasn’t confined his business model to the bank. He’s also provided expertise to the boards of a long list of companies and chambers of commerce. He was part of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, and in 2009, he chaired the Buckhead Coalition.

But Miller isn’t all business. He’s also devoted time and attention to a variety of philanthropic causes, including the Decatur Rotary Club, the Carlos Museum, the Callanwolde Fine Arts Center, the Atlanta Opera, the State Botanical Garden and the Shepherd Center.

“In the banking business, everybody comes to you,” said Miller with a laugh. “But I try to focus my time on things I’m interested in. I enjoy music a lot, so I’m on the Atlanta Opera board. I’m really interested in gardening, so I’m on the State Botanical Garden board. I do work all the time, but I find time to fit these things in. I also have a lot of energy and like to stay busy.”

On June 9, Miller’s dedication to the community was applauded by Senior Connections, a DeKalb-based nonprofit that supports senior citizens across the metro area with a range of services, from delivering meals and performing home repairs to providing in-home care and conducting wellness classes.

Miller was singled out for the group’s Community Connections award that honors an older adult with a proven track record of community and business leadership.

“Jim Miller has been a community champion for many years in metro Atlanta and has partnered with local leaders to make a positive difference in the lives of many,” said Connections CEO Debra Furtado.

“Jim has been an unwavering champion of Senior Connections’ mission to provide essential community-based care that maximizes independence. Jim is someone who quietly goes about his business, building the largest community bank in Georgia with Fidelity Bank, and continues to give back as a community leader.”

Miller, a father of three and grandfather of four, has a particular fondness for the work of Senior Connections.

“It’s one of those charities where you know where your money is going, which is very good,” he said. “I also know the money is spent carefully on the things they’re trying to get done. I also had two aunts who were recipients of Meals on Wheels.”

While he was honored by the award, Miller downplayed accolades for what he sees as business as usual.

“Giving is what life is about,” he said. “If you just focus on yourself, you’re missing out on the whole point. It sounds sort of corny, but it’s the truth.”