Charles E. Cantrell, physician, was born on March 15, 1859, at Lead Hill, Arkansas, the son of William and Elizabeth Cantrell. He attended public schools near his home and earned a medical degree from the University of Arkansas in 1893. He practiced in Wolfe City, Texas, until 1899, when he moved to Greenville. Cantrell founded the Physician's and Surgeon's Hospital, later named Cantrell Hospital, after he was joined in practice by his brother Will. Cantrell served as president of the Hunt County Medical Society and president (1908) and member of the board of trustees (1905–13) of the State Medical Association of Texas (later the Texas Medical Association). He was a member of the Board of Trustees of the American Medical Association (1909–13) and served as chairman of this organization's judicial council (1907). He also served for several years as the Texas delegate to the AMA and the Association of American Medical Colleges. He published several articles involving clinical case reports and philosophical issues in medicine.
During World War I Cantrell accepted an assignment as chief of the surgical staff of Base Hospital No. 15 in Corpus Christi. He later accepted a commission in the United States Public Health Service and was reassigned as a surgeon to the hospital in Corpus Christi. The United States surgeon general also asked Cantrell to organize the medical services of the War Risk Insurance Bureau. He was active in business groups in Greenville and was a member of the Wesley Methodist Church. He married Perrilda Dosher in 1878, and they had six daughters and four sons. Cantrell died in Greenville on November 20, 1919.