RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has vowed to remain in office despite widespread calls for his resignation after a racist photo surfaced in his yearbook page from more than 30 years ago.

Northam said at a news conference Saturday that he had prematurely apologized for appearing in a picture of a person in blackface and another wearing a Ku Klux Klan outfit. The photo appeared in his 1984 medical school yearbook.

The Democratic governor said Saturday that he, in fact, was not in the photo and had never even seen the yearbook until Friday.

His refusal to resign signals a potential bruising fight between Northam and his former supporters. Leaders in both parties have repeatedly urged Northam to resign, saying he’s lost the public’s trust.

The president of Eastern Virginia Medical School says a racist photo that appears in the 1984 student yearbook is “shockingly abhorrent.”

In a statement on the school’s website , President Richard Homan said the photo of one person in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan hood is “absolutely antithetical” to the school’s principles, morals and values.

The photo was on the profile page of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who says he believes he’s not one of the men in the picture.

Homan also apologized for “past transgressions of your trust.” He said he’ll convene a meeting of leadership and others to address the issue.

In his first apology, issued in a written statement, Northam called the costume he wore “clearly racist and offensive,” but he didn’t say which one he had worn.

He later issued a video statement saying he was “deeply sorry” but still committed to serving the “remainder of my term.”

“I accept responsibility for my past actions and I am ready to do the hard work of regaining your trust,” Northam said.

A small number of protesters stood outside the governor’s mansion Saturday to demand his resignation.

Northam’s departure would mean current Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, a Democrat who is only the second African-American to win statewide office in Virginia, would be the next governor. Northam’s term was set to end in 2022.

Black lawmakers said they met with Northam Friday evening, and said in a statement they appreciate his service.

“But given what was revealed today, it is clear that he can no longer effectively serve as governor,” the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus said.

State Sen. Louise Lucas of Portsmouth, a close ally of Northam and longtime African-American lawmaker, said she told the governor Saturday that he should have denied he was in the photo immediately after it went public. The delay and his apology raises questions about why he thought it was possible he could have been in the picture.

“That’s hard for me to swallow. I don’t think I’m being unreasonable. But golly Jesus, he could have said that the minute he saw the picture,” Lucas said

Others said there was no question he should step down. Among them: Democratic presidential hopefuls Cory Booker, Julian Castro, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren; newly elected Democratic U.S. Reps. Elaine Luria and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia; the NAACP and Planned Parenthood.

Northam spent years actively courting the black community in the lead up to his 2017 gubernatorial run, building relationships that helped him win both the primary and the general election. He’s a member of a predominantly black church on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, where he grew up.

“It’s a matter of relationships and trust. That’s not something that you build overnight,” Northam told the AP during a 2017 campaign stop while describing his relationship with the black community. Northam, a folksy pediatric neurologist who is personal friends with many GOP lawmakers, has recently come under fire from Republicans who have accused him of backing infanticide after he said he supported a bill loosening restrictions on late-term abortions.

Last week, Florida’s secretary of state resigned after photos from a 2005 Halloween party showed him in blackface while dressed as a Hurricane Katrina victim.