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Breckinridge Long Willcox (Breck)

Died: November 16, 2006

Following graduation, Breck attended Duke Law School under the Marine JAG program. More than half of Breck’s legal career was devoted to public service, in which he achieved great distinction.

Upon receiving his law degree, Breck was stationed in Honolulu as a JAG officer — a time-honored path for young lawyers to obtain lots of trial experience. After completing his military service, Breck worked as a legislative aide for Senator Charles (Mac) Mathias, a liberal Republican who would be unrecognizable in today’s Senate. In 1975 Breck moved to the Criminal Division in the Department of Justice, where he prosecuted a number of important cases involving defense contracting fraud. Building on his experience as a JAG lawyer, Breck honed his courtroom skills during this period and became a highly effective trial lawyer. From 1984 to 1986, he was a partner in the Washington, DC law firm of McKenna, Connor and Cuneo and established that firm’s white collar defense practice.

In 1986 President Reagan appointed Breck to be the United States Attorney for the District of Maryland. His tenure in that office was distinguished by success in a number of important cases. His office obtained convictions in two high profile espionage cases: the case of Ronald Pelton, a former National Security Agency communications expert, and a Navy spy ring lead by John Walker. Both received life sentences for selling secrets to the Russians. Breck also personally argued an appeal — an unusual step for a U.S. Attorney — in a precedent-setting case that extended the application of the espionage statutes to leaks to the press. In addition, Breck supervised prosecutions of drug dealers, culprits in the collapse of savings-and-loan associations, and generic drug manufacturers that submitted fraudulent test results to the Food and Drug Administration. Breck also prosecuted two Maryland state senators for accepting bribes to obstruct a congressional investigation of a defense contracting scandal.

On leaving the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 1991, Breck became a partner in the Washington, D.C. firm of Arent, Fox, where he turned his skill and experience to defending parties in white collar cases. He remained with that firm until his retirement in 2002.

Breck’s first marriage to Laura Henderson ended in divorce a few years before his retirement. He subsequently married Lynn Braitman, who owned an avocado and citrus ranch in Santa Paula, California.

Breck and Lynn planned an active retirement in Hawaii, California, Colorado, and Nantucket, where Breck spent almost every summer of his life. His interests included fishing, golf, scuba diving and skiing. He also assembled a word-class collection of sea shells and was involved in coral reef restoration. Unfortunately, in late 2005 he was diagnosed with a virulent form of bladder cancer that metastasized rapidly. Breck died on November 16, 2006, at Lynn’s ranch. He is survived by his two wives and his sons Blair and Christopher.

Thomas Wilner remembers:

I knew Breck from the time we were little kids growing up in Washington. He was brash, strident, and full of life, vigor and intelligence. I am shocked that Breck is gone, and I miss him.