Republican Virginia Senate leader edited yearbook with blackface photos

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RICHMOND, Va. (WHSV) — A top Virginia Republican served as an editor for a college yearbook that includes racial slurs and at least one image of a person in blackface.

Tommy Norment (left) was the managing editor of a Virginia Military Institute yearbook in the 1960s that included photos of people wearing blackface. (Source: Virginia Senate/"The Bomb" VMI yearbook)

Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment was managing editor of the 1968 yearbook for the Virginia Military Institute.

“With 114 editions of The Bomb available online dating back to 1885, I am not surprised that those wanting to engulf Republican leaders in the current situations involving the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General would highlight the yearbook from my graduation a half century ago," he said in a statement.

The yearbook includes a photo of a man in blackface standing with others in costumes and uses racial slurs to describe a student from Bangkok, Thailand.

The contents of the yearbook were first reported Thursday by The Virginian Pilot. It's available online.

In a statement, Norment condemned the use of blackface. He said he was one of seven people who worked on the yearbook and "cannot endorse or associate" himself with everything in it.

"As one of seven working on a 359-page yearbook, I cannot endorse or associate myself with every photo, entry, or word on each page."

Norment says he isn't featured in nor did he take any of the photos in question. Normally, however, the person in the role of managing editor on a yearbook has to approve every page before publishing.

“Despite all of the distractions from the continuing controversies involving our statewide elected officials, I am intent on fulfilling the work of the people of Virginia by passing a fiscally responsible budget that provides tax relief for working families," Norment said.

Norment's full statement can be found here.

He was among those in the Virginia Republican Party that demanded Governor Ralph Northam resign for a photo depicting someone in blackface and someone in a Ku Klux Klan robe on Northam's page in a 1984 med school yearbook.

The current crisis among Virginia's top Democratic leadership began when that photo emerged on Friday. Northam first admitted that he was in the photo and apologized, but then, in a press conference later in the weekend, said he was not in the photo, but did dress in blackface for a Michael Jackson costume in a dance contest.

Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, the next in line, faces accusations of sexual assault from Dr. Vanessa Tyson.

The next in line after Fairfax, Attorney General Mark Herring, announced on Wednesday that he too wore blackface in the '80s for a costume as a rapper.

Norment represents the 3rd District, which includes Gloucester, King and Queen, King William and New Kent counties and the City of Poquoson, and portions of Isle of Wight, James City, Surry, and York counties, and the cities of Hampton and Suffolk.