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Benjamin R. Justesen

politician and public official, was born in Georgetown, South Carolina, the son of a slave mother owned by the white planter E. H. Deas of Charleston, where the youth lived in 1860. Little is known of his childhood or early education in the small Sumter County town of Stateburg, where Edmund Deas moved after the Civil War and lived until the early 1870s.

By 1874, Deas had moved to Darlington, South Carolina, where he became active in Republican Party politics. Though not yet able to vote, he served as precinct chairman and campaign worker that year for the black Republican U.S. congressman Joseph H. Rainey, seeking reelection in the 2nd district, and by 1876, had become a federal constable in South Carolina. In 1878 he became chairman of his party's congressional district committee, serving for eight years, and in 1880 he was elected ...