February 24, 1920 ~ December 8, 2020

Born in: Savannah, GA
Resided in: Atlanta, GA

Caroline Postelle Clotfelter, 100, a longtime resident of Atlanta who took up a second career as an economist in middle age, died in Atlanta on December 8.

Caroline grew up in Birmingham, where she learned to sew and play golf. At age 16, she enrolled at Birmingham-Southern College. After graduating, she married James Hodson Clotfelter in 1940. They were apart when James served in the Army during World War II. After the war the couple moved to Atlanta, where they raised three boys, Jim, Charlie, and Tom.

Throughout the years, Caroline’s energy, creativity, and sense of whimsy found expression in dozens of home-sewn outfits, trick-the-eye paintings on walls throughout her house, songs for school and scout musicals, giant paper-mache ice cream cones, letters to grandchildren in backwards script, and hand-made furniture from her woodworking shop.

When her youngest son Tom entered high school, Caroline returned to school herself, earning a master’s degree in economics from Georgia State University in 1969 and later a PhD in economics at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa in 1973.

This training launched her second career, which led her to teaching positions at Samford University, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Oglethorpe University, and Mercer University in Atlanta.
In 1996, Caroline published what remains a unique book, an anthology of economic humor, On the Third Hand: Humor in the Dismal Science (University of Michigan Press). For more than a decade after its publication, the American Economic Association included at its annual meetings a session on economic humor in her honor.

Caroline brought her love of life and sense of humor into the classroom and beyond the university. In 2001 she was cited in an Atlanta Journal article about offbeat economic indicators: “Clotfelter, who takes a three-mile walk daily near the Capital City Golf Course in Brookhaven, has a strange theory of her own, which she calls the golf ball inflation rule. It holds that when golfers hunt for lost balls, it means inflation is heating up – a bad sign for stocks.”

Caroline is survived by her sons, James Clotfelter (Sallie), of Greensboro, NC, Charles Clotfelter (Theresa Newman), of Durham, NC, and Thomas Clotfelter, of Atlanta, GA; her grandchildren Ethan Clotfelter (Amy), Justine Stassun (Keivan), James Clotfelter (Kristin), and John Clotfelter (Emily); her step-grandchildren Benjamin Glover and Chelsea Glover; her great-grandchildren Avery, Erin, Delia, Jaime, Emilio, Ayla, and McKenna; and her long-time friends and loved ones Jim Cooper, Scott Auerbach, and Glendine Clarke.

No memorial service has been planned at this time.

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  1. Caroline was the neighborhood sweetheart. No only was she the oldest resident but there was never a more cheerful and loving person in Brookhaven. She survived the accident and kept on walking. Her whole disposition was that of one 50 years younger. She couldn’t play golf at her age but she would walk along next to the golf course just to hear the sounds of the golfers hitting their golf balls. Well into her 90’s she hosted Christmas parties at her house. When she went to other Christmas parties, she always had a following that loved to talk with her. Janice and I will truly miss her. She was a one-of-a-kind spirit that will always be in our memories.

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