Charles Edward Horner was born in 1882 to Rebecca Day Horner (née Minnes) and Charles D. Horner. The family lived in Cumminsville, moving to Northern Kentucky in 1897, when his father became a teacher and principal at the Southgate School in Newport, the only Black school in Campbell County. The Horners lived at 152 Van Voast Ave. in Bellevue, and then moved to 404 West 4th St. in Newport.
Horner attended public schools but left at age 15 and started working. At some point, he had to help support his mother and his six siblings. (His father had passed away, but the date is unknown.) During this time, he was employed as a janitor, waiter, restaurant cook, baker, window washer, and porter. Using his savings, he was able to begin studies at the Eclectic Medical Institute of Cincinnati in 1903, while continuing to work nights and summers to pay for school.
Horner graduated from medical school in 1907 and became a Pullman porter soon after. He was stationed in Chicago, and his job enabled him to travel across North America.
He passed the Kentucky State Medical Board examination in 1910 and became Newport's first Black medical doctor. The following year, he married Emma Kelly (née Walker).
On 12 Feb 1918, a story in the Kentucky Times Star described the aftermath of a flood and Dr. Horner's unsuccessful attempt to save a man from drowning. He was being rowed in a boat with George Wooding, when the boat overturned at 4th and Isabella. Wooding drowned, and Horner was left unconscious but recovered. The article mentioned that his home was at 318 West 4th St. at the time.
In 1926, Wendell Dabney noted in his book, Cincinnati's Colored Citizens, that the vast majority of Horner's patients were white. The publication also mentioned that he was a "member of Andrew's Episcopal Church; a member of Kenton Lodge No 16 Masons; Scottish Rite Masons, King Solomon's Consistory No 20, and the Licking Valley United Brothers of Friendship. A 32nd Degree Mason of Cincinnati."
Horner's wife passed away and, sometime in the 1930s, he married Katherine Berry. He retired from medical practice in 1943 and moved to a farm he owned in Williamsburg, OH. Dr. Horner passed away in 1948.