Northam Donor Knew About Racist Yearbook Picture, Kept It Secret

Med school president gave thousands to Northam, knew about KKK picture

Gov. Ralph Northam
Gov. Ralph Northam / Getty Images
• May 22, 2019 2:10 pm


An investigation into Virginia governor Ralph Northam's Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook found that the school president, a political donor to Northam's campaign, was aware of the racist picture and decided to keep it secret.

The report, released in full by the school Wednesday, says EVMS president Richard Homan was alerted by his staff of the picture on Northam's yearbook page of a man in blackface together with an individual in a Ku Klux Klan hood while Northam was running for office.

"The staff members were advising the president at the time of the photograph and asking if EVMS had an obligation to or should do something about it, such as notifying Governor Northam about it," the report says. "The president of EVMS decided that the school should not take steps to publicly announce the photograph or to call Governor Northam's attention to it."

The report says staff members "assumed" Northam would "already be aware of what was on his personal yearbook page," and Homan "wanted the school to move forward with new initiatives rather than focus on the past."

The report does not specifically say when Homan was made aware of the picture, but says it came as Northam was running for public office. Homan became president of the school in 2013 as Northam was running for lieutenant governor. He decided in 2014 that he was terminating yearbooks at the school.

Unmentioned in the report are Homan's political contributions to Northam.

Homan's first contribution to Northam was a $1,000 contribution to his campaign for lieutenant governor in October 2013, according to records at the Virginia Public Access Project.

He gave an additional $1,000 to Northam during his run for governor, and then contributed $10,000 to his inaugural committee in 2017.

Also a major contributor to Northam was Homan's predecessor at the school, Harry Lester, who the report says was also made aware of the yearbook picture during Northam's political rise.

Homan did not respond to an inquiry on his political contributions to Northam.

The firm Homan hired to conduct the investigation into Northam was Richmond-based McGuireWoods, which earlier this year hosted a fundraiser for him at its office where Northam's PAC was able to raise more than $200,000, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The firm says in its report that it was unable to determine whether Northam was one of the men in the racist picture on his yearbook page. The firm also determined, however, that the picture was likely not placed on his page by mistake, something Northam has suggested may have happened.

Northam initially admitted he was in the picture and apologized, but then insisted he was neither of the men. He resisted bipartisan calls for his resignation and has remained governor.

Published under: Ralph Northam