J. L. Cabell was a medical educator and public health advocate. Likely born in Nelson County, he attended the University of Virginia and received his medical degree from the University of Maryland in Baltimore. In 1837, he became a professor of anatomy and surgery at the University of Virginia, teaching for more than fifty years, until 1889. In 1859, Cabell published a treatise arguing that all people, even those of supposedly inferior races, descended from a single creation. During the(1861–1865), Cabell served as the in charge of the Confederate military hospitals in and . After the war, he helped to found the Medical Society of Virginia and served as its president from 1876 to 1877. He was the first president of the Virginia State Board of Health, and in 1879 became president of the new National Board of Health. Cabell died in 1889.