WILLIAM SCOTT CANTRELL. It is one of the most encouraging facts which can anywhere exist that in this country a large proportion of those individuals who, by their public service, have attained a greater or less degree of eminence, or mayhap, by their professional or business acquirements and talents, have risen by their own exertions. In this sketch there will be found something to encourage the exertions of those youths who, without fortune or influential friends, are struggling to overcome obstacles in the acquirement of wealth and position. They will see in the example before them how difficulties were surmounted and what was achieved by close application and perseverance. William Scott Cantrell was born in Benton, Franklin county, Illinois, February 6, 1851, and is a son of Tilman B. and Euphemia D. (Newman) Cantrell and a grandson of Richard Cantrell, a native of Tennessee, who brought his family to Illinois at an early day and spent the remainder of his life in agricultural pursuits.
Tilman B. Cantrell was born in Tennessee and accompanied his parents to Franklin county, Illinois, becoming the first merchant in the dry goods business in the village (now city) of Benton, in which he continued until his death, on the 14th day of May, 1873. He was a Democrat in politics, but never cared for public office. His wife, who was a native of Franklin county, Illinois, died in 1901, in the faith of the Methodist Episcopal church, of which her husband was also a consistent member.
They were the parents of eight children, three of whom died in their infancy and one after having reached his manhood, and four still survive, as follows: George C., who is cashier of the First National Bank of Benton; Mrs. Mary A. Brownlee and Mrs. Kate C. St. Clair, who reside in St. Louis, Missouri; and William Scott, who still resides in the City of Benton, the place of his birth, and who has the distinction of being the second oldest inhabitant of Benton that was born in the town now living there. He received a common school education and attended the Indiana State University for two terms. Deciding upon the law as a profession, he began its study in the office of Youngblood and Barr at Benton, Illinois, in 1870, and during the winter of 1871 attended Judge Andrew D. Duff's Law School at Shawneetown, Illinois. He was admitted to the bar in June, 1873, and entered at once upon the practice at Benton, Illinois. His first law partner was the Hon. Francis M. Youngblood (now deceased), a very prominent lawyer in Southern Illinois. This partnership continued for several years, and until Mr. Youngblood moved to Carbondale, Illinois. His next partnership was with Judge R. H. Flannigan, which continued until 1892, when it was dissolved on account of Judge Flannigan's election as state's attorney. He then formed a partnership with the Hon. Daniel M. Browning (now deceased), with whom he was associated until 1893, when Judge Browning having been appointed by President Cleveland as commissioner of Indian affairs, moved to Washington, D. C. In January, 1893, Mr. Cantrell was appointed, as chairman of the railroad and warehouse commission of the state of Illinois, by Governor Altgeld, in which position he served until the election of Governor John R. Tanner in 1896. In 1884 Mr. Cantrell was elected state's attorney of Franklin county as a Democrat, and served four years. He has always been a staunch Democrat and has been quite active in state and national politics. He has been a member of the Democratic State Committee from the twenty-fifth Congressional district since 1908. He has a large personal acquaintance with public men of both parties not only in Illinois but in many other states. For twenty-three consecutive years he was a member of the committee of appeals and grievances of the Grand Lodge of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Illinois, and never failed to be present at every meeting during the entire period.
On March 2, 1882, Mr. Cantrell was married to Miss Mary Jane Burnett, daughter of Charles Burnett, a prominent citizen and leading attorney of Shawneetown. Four children have been born to this union: Charles A., who is engaged in the mercantile business; Mary A., who is a graduate of the high school and the Perry School of Oratory at St. Louis; Ruth L., who will graduate from high school in 1912; and Tilman B., who is attending the public schools. Mr. Cantrell and his family are consistent members of the Methodist Episcopal church. He is a past master of the local Blue Lodge of the Masonic order and belongs also to the Elks, Knights of Honor and the Knights of Pythias. He is pleasing in his manner, genial, generous and charitable, and very popular among his friends. He enjoys a lucrative law practice, and is the attorney for all the railroads in Franklin county, as well as other large financial institutions. He is always in the forefront for public improvements in his city and is a highly respected citizen.