Carolyn McClellan was the third and last child of Lester and Eunice. She was born on May 28, 1939 in John Sealy Hospital, Santa Anna TX. At the time, the Lester McClellan family lived in a farmhouse on the Ballard Farm in Anderson Community, Coleman County.

Carolyn attended Howard Payne College in Brownwood, TX and transferred to Baylor University in Waco, TX where she earned a baccalaureate degree in nursing.

After college, Carolyn volunteered for the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. She was sent to Jibla, Yemen as a missionary nurse where she was one of six Americans on the Baptist Hospital staff. Carolyn remained as a missionary nurse for many years, serving in hospitals in Yemen and Bangalore, India.

After resigning from the Foreign Mission Board, she became an academic librarian at Abilene Christian College in Abilene, TX.