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Breech, Ernest Robert (24 February 1897–03 July 1978), automobile and aviation executive, was born in Lebanon, Missouri, the son of Joseph F. E. Breech, a blacksmith, and Martha Atchley. Ernest gained early experience with mechanics by working with his older brother Earl in his father’s blacksmith shop, which specialized in making carriages. In high school he was a stellar football, basketball, and baseball athlete and was offered a try-out with the St. Louis Browns professional baseball team. But he had his sights set on studying law and distinguished himself as a speaker, winning a medal for oratory while in high school. After graduating in 1914, Breech had to defer college because of inadequate family financing. To earn money he worked as a salesman and mechanic in an automobile agency that his father had acquired, thus gaining his first exposure to the automobile industry. He won a scholarship to Drury College in Springfield, Missouri, which he entered in 1915. Despite a strong academic record, Breech left college after his sophomore year in 1917 and moved to Chicago, where his brother Earl had found work for him in the accounting department of Fairbanks, Morse & Company, manufacturers of scales and weighing equipment. He later supplemented the income from this job by working evenings and weekends at O’Connor and Goldberg’s State Street Store, the leading ladies’ shoe store in Chicago. Also in 1917 Breech married his childhood sweetheart, Thelma Rowden, in Chicago; the couple had two sons....