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Long IslandObituaries

Vietnam lottery draft creator Curtis Tarr dies

MILWAUKEE -- Curtis Tarr, the former head of the Selective Service System who oversaw the lottery for the draft during the Vietnam War, has died.

Tarr died of pneumonia on June 21 at his home in Walnut Creek, Calif., his daughter, Pam Tarr, said. He was 88.

President Richard Nixon appointed Tarr as director of the Selective Service System in 1970. The nation had held its first lottery drawing for the draft in December 1969, and Tarr was responsible for implementing the changes, said Dick Flahavan, spokesman for the Selective Service.

Before the lottery, local draft boards controlled who was called. "The lottery system took the local personalities out of the system," Flahavan said. Each day of the year was assigned a randomly drawn number from 1 to 365. So, for example, May 1 might be assigned No. 100, and men with May 1 birthdays would be called after those with birthdays assigned the numbers 1 to 99.

The lottery was introduced as the war was winding down. In 1970, the draft called men with numbers through 195. The next year, it called up to 125, and by 1972, volunteers satisfied the military's needs.

Tarr, who served with the Army during World War II, led the Selective Service until May 1972 and then served a year as undersecretary of state for security assistance, a position that gave him responsibility for military programs with other nations. He left government service in 1973 and went to private industry.

Tarr pushed unsuccessfully to eliminate college deferments for the draft, believing they unfairly discriminated against the poor and less-educated, his daughter said. He did reduce the number of conscientious objectors by changing the guidelines for who would qualify.

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