The second of three children, he attended the Arkansas Industrial University, now the University of Arkansas School of Law, from 1892 to 1893.
After his sophomore year, he taught school in several Arkansas counties until 1896, marrying Tera A. Smith on September 27, 1893. Futrell also farmed and worked in the timber industry before entering politics. Futrell was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives and served from 1896 to 1904.
He was elected Circuit Court Clerk from 1906 to 1910.
Futrell was elected to the Arkansas Senate and served from 1913 to 1917. He was the Senate President from 1915 to 1917.
While President of the Senate, he served as acting governor for four months in 1913 after Governor Joseph Taylor Robinson resigned. Futrell was admitted to the bar in Arkansas in 1913 and practiced law in Paragould until his 1922 appointment to the Second Division of the Second Circuit Court.
In 1923, he moved to the Twelfth Chancery Circuit.
Futrell was elected to a full term as governor in his own right in 1932 and reelected in 1934. In the 1932 general election, Futrell defeated the Republican J. O. Livesay, a lawyer of Foreman in Little River County in southwestern Arkansas, who had also been the gubernatorial nominee against Harvey Parnell in 1930. Livesay finished the race with 8.9 percent of the vote, less than half his percent polled in 1930.
The Futrell administration established the Arkansas State Planning Board and created the Arkansas Department of Public Welfare.
His administration also rescinded prohibition and instituted some legalized gambling. After leaving office, Futrell returned to the practice of law.
Futrell died in 1955 in Little Rock and is interred at Linwood Cemetery in Paragould. He had suffered a severe stroke on July 4, 1948.