Thomas K. Norment Jr., the powerful Republican majority leader in the Virginia Senate, was a top editor of a 1968 college yearbook that included several photographs of students in blackface as well as racist slurs.
Mr. Norment, 72, a longtime fixture and political broker in the State Legislature, is the first Republican to be swept up in Virginia’s ongoing political crisis over racist behavior in the past. The Virginian-Pilot newspaper first reported on the photos and material on Thursday.
As a senior at Virginia Military Institute, then an all-male college that was sometimes called “the West Point of the South,’’ Mr. Norment was managing editor of the 1968 edition of the Bomb yearbook. That edition included students in blackface and slurs aimed at African-Americans, Asians and Jews, according to a copy viewed by The New York Times.
Mr. Norment, in a statement released by his office Thursday, said, “The use of blackface is abhorrent in our society and I emphatically condemn it.” He said he was part of a seven-member team at the Bomb, “a 359-page yearbook,” and added, “I cannot endorse or associate myself with every photo, entry, or word on each page.” He noted that he did not appear in the offensive pictures and said he did not take those photos.
The images surfaced in the wake of acknowledgments by two Virginia leaders, Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring, that they had each worn blackface as young men. The admissions by those two Democrats have plunged Virginia into turmoil and led to calls for both men’s resignations. A third Democratic leader, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, is facing an allegation of sexual assault.
The Bomb yearbook includes a photograph of two smiling people in blackface holding a football, one with a cigarette and white military hat. In another photo, a young man is in blackface posing with others apparently at a party.
A statement by Mr. Norment on the yearbook’s page dedicated to its editors, reads, “It has been the objective of this year’s Bomb staff to concentrate on the VMI as it exists in actuality, not in theory.”