Senate majority leader Norment of Williamsburg oversaw VMI yearbook with racist photos, slurs

In 1968, Senate majority leader Thomas K. Norment was the managing editor of Virginia Military Institute’s “The Bomb” yearbook. Norment's photo can be seen in the bottom left of this image. (WYDaily/Courtesy VMI)
In 1968, Senate majority leader Thomas K. Norment was the managing editor of Virginia Military Institute’s “The Bomb” yearbook. Norment’s photo can be seen in the bottom left of this image. (Southside Daily/Courtesy VMI)

As Virginia and the rest of the nation discuss and debate racist behavior relating to some of Virginia’s highest elected government officials, another state political figure is in the spotlight.

In 1968, Senate majority leader Thomas K. Norment was the managing editor of Virginia Military Institute’s “The Bomb” yearbook, which featured multiple blackface photos and racist nicknames and slurs.

Norment attended VMI in Lexington and hails from Williamsburg. He represents parts of James City and York counties in the Virginia Senate.

The latest information on the Republican politician comes as Americans discuss other racially-charged matters concerning Virginia’s Democratic leaders: a racist photo in Gov. Ralph Northam’s yearbook, sexual assault allegations against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, and Attorney General Mark Herring’s admittance to wearing blackface.

Staff for Norment’s office in Richmond did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday afternoon.

However, in a prepared statement released through his office, Norment said he is a proud member of the Class of 1968 at VMI and that it was a year of “imperative transition,” at the school.

The state senator said he was part of a seven-member editorial team.

“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, lieutenant governor and attorney general would highlight the yearbook from my graduation a half century ago,” Norment said. “The use of black face is abhorrent in our society and I emphatically condemn it…”

Norment went on to say he was not in any of the photos “referenced on pages 82 or 122, nor did I take any of the photos in question.”

In 1968, Senate majority leader Thomas K. Norment was the managing editor of Virginia Military Institute’s “The Bomb” yearbook, which featured multiple blackface photos and racist nicknames and slurs. (WYDaily/Courtesy VMI)
In 1968, Senate majority leader Thomas K. Norment was the managing editor of Virginia Military Institute’s “The Bomb” yearbook, which featured multiple blackface photos and racist nicknames and slurs. (Southside Daily/Courtesy VMI)

Many VMI yearbooks are digitized and available on the VMI website. The yearbook has been continuously published since 1895, with the exception of 1945 and 1946, according to the website.

Last Friday, Northam’s history was called into question after a yearbook photo arose on his page showing two people dressed in blackface and a KKK robe.

Northam’s nickname, “Coonman,” was also included in the yearbook.

Days later, sexual assault allegations against Fairfax surfaced against Fairfax, the lieutenant governor and the next-in-line should Northam resign.

On Wednesday, Attorney General Herring released a statement admitting he once wore blackface as part of a costume.

RELATED STORY: Blackface photo is a reminder of Virginia’s racist history

As of Thursday afternoon, none of the three men had resigned from their positions.

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John Mangalonzo (john@localvoicemedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.