For most of the period from 1966 to 1971, during the Vietnam War, Judge Thomas received student draft deferments from his draft board in Chatham County, Ga., according to Selective Service System records on file in Washington.
The exception covered the period from July 1968, after he left a Roman Catholic seminary and lost his deferment as a divinity student, to March 1969, after he entered Holy Cross College in Worcester, Mass., and received a student deferment.
During that period, Judge Thomas was classified 1-A, available for military service, said Lew Brodsky, the Selective Service assistant director for public affairs.
Judge Thomas underwent a military physical Feb. 2, 1969, "and was found acceptable but did not get drafted" because he received a student deferment the following month, Mr. Brodsky said.
After graduating from Holy Cross in June 1971, Judge Thomas underwent another physical examination on Sept. 8 of that year and apparently failed, Mr. Brodsky said.
"The indication on the record we're looking at is that the examination produced a result of 'rejected,' " Mr. Brodsky said. "The only other indication we have is that it was based on something medical or physical. . . . Since there is no backup documentation, I can't tell what was found wrong with him."
Two months later, Judge Thomas' draft board reclassified him 4-F, "not qualified for military service," Mr. Brodsky said.
It was his final classification. When Judge Thomas reached age 35, the top limit of draft eligibility, all supporting documentation in his draft records was destroyed, Mr. Brodsky said.
Judge Thomas, who was on Capitol Hill yesterday, declined to answer reporters' questions, and White House officials did not respond to inquiries about his draft deferment.
Richard Leon, a Washington lawyer who represented Judge Thomas during the 1990 Senate confirmation hearings on his appointment to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said he had no idea why Judge Thomas had been classified 4-F.