Robert Henry Cutting Jr.
May 13, 1948 - August 23, 2023

Bob Cutting lived with a fierceness and passion for people, nature, art, and social and environmental justice. A vital life source, he had boundless energy and big ideas. He was someone you could rely on to show up on short notice and do what was needed.

Older friends knew him from his days as a lawyer and prosecutor in Santa Barbara, CA where he led the white-collar crime unit in the District Attorney’s office. He was also known as a committed environmental and political activist. He was the founder of the Santa Barbara Environmental Defense Center. His writings on pollution and conservation were instrumental in building a case for the Clean Air Act.

Wilmington friends knew him as an environmental lawyer and political activist committed to protecting the Carolina coast he loved. A long-time board member of the NC League of Conservation Voters, he authored numerous widely cited publications on environmental law, climate justice, and public policy. He fought relentlessly against air and water pollution in articles like “If the Tide is Rising, Who Pays for the Ark?”.

Close friends also knew Bob for his early morning barefoot runs on the beach. Others, his tireless presence at voting stations across the region, fighting voter intimidation. His work did not stop in the political and environmental spheres–Bob was also an instrument rated pilot, an award-winning volunteer at two elementary schools and Science Olympiad, a talented writer, and gifted watercolorist. Bob was so many things to his friends, family, and community.

As teacher, mentor, colleague, husband, father, neighbor and friend, Bob’s greatest joy and gift was making everyone—from every corner of his life—feel joy. He had a knack for bringing people together, sometimes for common cause, and sometimes because he just loved people. He was happiest when he could provide fun for others. He was a rabid supporter of those closest to him–his friends and family. He urged all of them–all of us––to pursue our dreams.

He will be missed by so many for so many reasons—his wonderful and unpredictable sense of humor, his deep commitment to things he cared about, his love and caring for his friends and family, and the energy and passion that he brought to every aspect of his life.
Bob was born on May 13, 1948 and grew up in Brea, CA. where he played football and baseball at Brea Olinda High School. He graduated from the University of California Santa Barbara in 1970, and earned his law degree at the University of California, Davis in 1973. He began his legal career with Legal Aid, before joining the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s office. He later opened his own private practice. He married the love of his life, Sally MacKain in 1987. Together, they moved to Wilmington in 1990 to build a family and pursue new adventures. He was a faculty member in Environmental Law at UNCW from 1991 to 2015. He’s survived by wife Sally, sons David and Henry, brother Richard, and sister-in-law Reba.

In Bob’s memory, please support the causes he championed

Coastal Cremations 6 Jacksonville St., Wilmington NC 28403



  • Kate, Scott, Milo, & Nash Nooner Posted August 30, 2023 8:14 pm

    Bob was one of the first people to welcome us to Wilmington. Talking to Bob in the kitchen during Psychology Department parties at Bob and Sally’s house was always a highlight. He also helped us find a house for Kate’s parents in Wilmington. Bob was the best of the best. We will miss him.

  • Caroline Cropp Posted August 30, 2023 8:30 pm

    I was a UNCW student in the late 1990s when I came to know Sally and Bob – babysitting the young Cutting boys at Summer Rest. Bob (Sally called him Rob) was sharp as a tack and I was told you didn’t want to go up against him in court. I’m shocked at his passing and sending much love to Sally, boys and family.

  • Wendy & Dave Washington Posted August 31, 2023 9:00 am

    I didn’t know all of the things that Bob did, I just knew he was a lovely human with a fantastic family. My family is sending love to Sally, David, Henry, and the family.

  • Rachael McLoud-Brophy Posted August 31, 2023 9:03 am

    I distinctly remember our conversation about family in the TL hallway earlier this year and watching your face light up when you talked about them gave me so much joy. I truly wish I could have met Bob as it sounds like he was an incredible person who made such an important impact on our world. I’m thinking of you often and sending you and your sons love and light.

  • Erica Noles Posted August 31, 2023 9:20 am

    I have so many amazing memories of Bob, but as I type this message, I sit in the house that Bob sold us. Bob was the first one to step foot in the room I am currently in, and he was instrumental in selling us our first house. He had this beautiful wire/metal fish made for us to decorate our new house, and they hang from the ceiling behind me. He was so encouraging, relentless, and helpful in the process. I also remember his barefoot runs through campus back in the day, and now that I run, I really appreciate his tenacity even more. I hope that Sally, David, Henry, and the rest of your family can celebrate all the amazing contributions Bob brought to this world and community. The world is a better place thanks to Bob Cutting!

  • Larry Cahoon Posted August 31, 2023 10:11 am

    Bob and I were great friends and colleagues for decades. Bob;’s arguments for property rights as a defense from pollution is one of the most appealing and elegant ideas for environmental protection I have ever heard, and his efforts to publish that idea with wide-ranging supporting arguments were brilliant. We had lots of fun times together, too – BB shooting contests, Meetings of the Minds (MOMs), trips to Myrtle Beach and Byron’s wedding, on and on. Bob was there when I needed him most – medical troubles and my wife’s death. That’s true friendship.

  • Antonio Puente Posted August 31, 2023 12:28 pm

    “Only the good die young”. His passing leaves a legacy of environmental impact on both coasts and how one could be a prosecutor and an activist in the same breath. His person and impact will be missed by many.

  • Paul Gathright Posted August 31, 2023 1:59 pm

    I came to know Bob through his son, David. Bob was such a wonderful man. His outspokenness and passion were a delight. I quickly respected Bob as a man of principle, a man dedicated to family and community. His passing is a great loss, especially for Sally, David, and Henry. His life, while shorter than seems fair, was large and meaningful. I will miss the lively discussions with Bob on a broad range of topics. Too few years in his life, lots of life in his years.

  • Jamie, Ricky, and Sydney Posted August 31, 2023 3:12 pm

    Bob was such an amazing person and full of so much energy. He helped us buy our house in Wilmington (like many have already mentioned), he always welcomed us with a smile, and he encouraged us to be more politically active and aware. He was an inspiration and a joy to be friends with. He will be greatly missed and we wish love and comfort to Sally, Henry and David during this time.

  • Karen Feeney Posted August 31, 2023 3:32 pm

    Dear Sally & Family – It is with surprise and sadness to hear of Bob’s passing. What a beautiful tribute to him. I remember Bob from his legal and environmental activist days in Santa Barbara. It was sheer joy when he brought Sally into our lives. While it has been many years since we have been in touch with each, I think of you fondly. I can only begin to imagine your loss, Sal. I’m so happy you have your two boys in your life to give you all the love and support you need. I do hope our paths cross one of these days. Much love, Karen Feeney

  • Stan Roden Posted August 31, 2023 3:47 pm

    To Bob’s family: Circa 1973, Bob was on a community committee interviewing possible candidates to run for SB Co. District Attorney. During my interview, I remember Bob asking questions about environmental protection. I couldn’t answer one. After the meeting, Bob offered and then schooled me on recent legislation that included the CA Coastal Commission and a host of other federal and state laws designed to protect the environment . After I was elected, we applied for and received a grant to fund a legal position for environmental protection. After considerable arm twisting, Bob joined the office. He created headaches for local polluters, especially water channels and groundwater from leaking oil wells. Bob was a dedicated, fierce, and successful–but fair– protector of our local environment. And, among other things, he was a hell of a competitive and talented ballplayer on our DA softball teams. He will be missed.

  • Dr. Bill wallace, and kentha Posted August 31, 2023 4:01 pm

    Dear Sal,
    Kentha and I are both in shock. We have no words that can begin to tell you how much he will be missed.
    You have lost your wing mate. He left you two fine wingmen.
    He has slipped the surly bonds of earth to dance the skies.

  • Dave MacQueen Posted August 31, 2023 4:19 pm

    Having known Sally for many years as a student at UNCW, and now as a colleague, I have always been in awe of her intellect, grace, and compassion for all who come into her orbit. More recently, I have come to know Bob better through the tremendous hospitality that they have extended to me and my wife, Tory. From my first conversations with Bob, I can recall being struck by how the traits that I admire so much in Sally were expressed by him in equal measure. They are two of the kindest souls that I am likely to encounter in my lifetime. I am heartbroken for this loss; For Sally, David, Henry, family, and all who have had the pleasure of knowing Bob. It is also obvious to me that through a life of dedication, Bob left this world a better place for us all. His was a life worth living and an example to follow.

  • Nora Noel Posted August 31, 2023 8:02 pm

    When I first came to Wilmington more than 30 years ago, Bob and Sally welcomed me warmly and have been my friends ever since. I am thinking of so many great interactions with Bob and his crazy sense of humor. Many people have already mentioned his house finding skills: Well, he quickly found me the house that I have lived in all these years, but told me recently he was sorry he had been so good at finding me the perfect place. I was never going to be a “repeat customer.” We will all miss you, Bob! You were part of the joy of living in Wilmington.

  • Graciela Espinosa Hernandez Posted September 1, 2023 4:06 pm

    I have been at UNCW for 13 years. Bob and Sally were among the first faculty members who welcomed me with open arms. They have done the same for many of our graduate students, welcoming them yearly! I am very lucky to have met Bob and enjoyed many conversations with him and Sally. Bob you will be missed! Much love to Sally and her family.

  • Skip Conde Posted September 1, 2023 4:53 pm

    Bob and I were moot court partners at UC Davis and friends for those three years and friends after he moved to NC. I had the great pleasure to drop in to visit him and Sally two years ago at his home. Reconnecting in person for the first time in a long time, he was just the same guy I knew from Californian He was a truly great guy and he lived the spirit of Martin L. King Law School, UC Davis. He made the planet a better place. How grateful I am for getting to see him again on earth.
    I miss you, Brother and know you are at peace.
    See you in heaven.

    Skip Conde’

  • Mike Mallin Posted September 2, 2023 9:54 am

    Bob was a terrific guy and a good friend to the environment. When he was at UNCW he sent many solid interns to my lab to gain real-world experience. He absolutely loved to have a good argument, political or otherwise, and then roar with laughter afterward. I will have many great memories of him whether working on a research publication, out target shooting in the field, or sitting around his house, my house, or Larry’s house carrying on over tequila, Scotch and IPAs discussing anything and everything. He is already sorely missed.

  • Mark Galizio Posted September 3, 2023 1:37 pm

    Sally, David & Henry—our hearts go out to you. You and Bob have been such an important part of our lives for more than 30 years. Annie grew up with you guys. We remember so many wonderful dinners, beach walks (in Bob’s case—barefoot runs!), camping trips and long talks. The great Cape Hatteras Adventure…The even greater Belize adventure. So many discussions and rants about environmental law and stupid drug laws—generally accompanied by a tequila or two. Bob was a great friend. We miss you.
    Mark Galizio & Kate Bruce

  • Rick McGough Posted September 3, 2023 5:42 pm

    Bob was a good high school friend at Brea-Olinda back in the 1960’s. I remember being at his Brea home and listening to the new Dave Clark Five album he had just bought. His folks had a great wooded cabin in Crestline in the San Bernardino Mountains, and I was the Cutting family’s guest on a couple of occasions. Bob was smart as a whip. He had a great sense of humor and was a much respected class leader. I am saddened to hear of his passing–and send heartfelt condolences to his family.

  • Susan Boone Posted September 3, 2023 8:02 pm

    Bob and I became friends at Brea Junior High in the seventh grade. We went to high school and college at UCSB together. In 2012 we reconnected and my husband Dave and I visited Bob and Sally in North Carolina. We had a great visit- lots to talk about since Dave and Bob were both attorneys. Dave died suddenly in 2015- he was only 75. I was heartbroken. Bob and Sally called and emailed mailed me often thru that difficult time. I will always be grateful for his friendship and caring. He will be greatly missed. Susan Boone

  • Robert Hakan Posted September 4, 2023 2:17 pm

    I am truly sorry for your loss. Bob was a good man.

  • Ruth Hurst and Tom Wiebe Posted September 4, 2023 3:41 pm

    Dear Sal, David, and Henry,
    Our condolences in the loss of Bob. He was present, kind, thoughtful, willing to advise and lend support in all matters. His sense of humor was a joy. We were fortunate to spend a short time with Sally and Bob in July – dinner, a boat ride, and fantastic conversation. We’re thankful that we had that opportunity, and are thankful that we knew him (and all of you) across as many events and as much time as we have. See you soon.
    Ruth and Tom

  • Phil and Lee Prete Posted September 5, 2023 9:56 am

    Hearing of Bob’s passing brought a huge shock and waves of sadness for his departure. Bob had a spirit that was way younger than his age, and his years on this earth were too few to be over. Many hours spent over lunch he loved to probe local politics with Phil and talk about legal and environmental topics. His smile was contagious and his passion for bringing like minded people together over coffee or tequila was almost conspiratorial. Our times together with him and Sally were too few, but hold a special place in our hearts. We will always wish there was time for one more laugh together. Bob, you will be missed! Sally, our thoughts and hearts are with you. We know you have an amazing network of family and friends who love you and will support you – please know we are among them! Lovingly, Phil and Lee Prete.

  • Kimberly Cook Posted September 5, 2023 11:17 am

    Dear Sally and family, I am so sorry for your loss. Warm regards, Kim

  • Dave Monahan Posted September 5, 2023 11:17 am

    My family and I are saddened to hear of Bob’s passing. Sally, David, and Henry – you are in our thoughts and prayers. Bob was a brilliant, passionate, funny, and friendly person who did so much for UNCW and the Wilmington community. Your family made us feel so welcome when we met you soon after moving to Wilmington. I admire you all and will greatly miss Bob. I feel lucky to have known him.

  • Tracy Skrabal Ruffin Posted September 5, 2023 11:35 am

    Bob was a true champion of applied education and environmental protection. He led his students and the community with intelligence and passion, and his legacy lives on through the work of the many people he taught, challenged and inspired. I was honored to know him as a colleague and friend. My deep condolences to his family and many friends.

  • John Runkle Posted September 5, 2023 5:33 pm

    I will miss my old friend but I take heart that his colleagues and students will continue his legacy forward.

  • DEBORAH D MAXWELL Posted September 6, 2023 10:44 am

    I met Bob with election protection work in this area. He would passionately have the discussion with me. We never got into the environmental side but could have. My condolences to the family on the loss of this caring person who wanted to making the environment better and voting what it should be.

  • Lauren Schaefer Posted September 6, 2023 1:58 pm

    Reading about the life of Bob left me in awe of the incredible mark he made on this world and those around him. Just from our few brief encounters, the love he and Sally shared was so evident. I share my sincerest condolences for Sally, David, Henry, and family. I am so very sorry for the loss of Bob. He certainly left the world a better place and will be deeply missed.

  • Jameson McDermott Posted September 6, 2023 2:16 pm

    My condolences to his family and friends. I was a student of his at UNCW in the late 90s. I’m glad to have met him and am thankful for his mentoring. What an impact he made on this world and the people in it. We’re in a better place because of Bob and people like him. Respectfully, Jameson

  • Lisa McDow Posted September 7, 2023 12:10 am

    Sally, Henry and David, may the memories of the joy and laughter you shared with Bob eventually overtake the sorrow, and the zeal with which he embraced life and loved you comfort your hearts! From the days of Gregory Science competitions and PTA meetings through my reunion with Bob serving together briefly as 2016 Poll Watchers, Bob could make even routine, tedious things a joy. As you celebrate Bob’s life and mourn this loss, may God’s loving presence console you and bring you peace.

  • Amy Long Posted September 8, 2023 11:18 am

    Like so many other memories shared by others, Bob was a fierce supporter to so many of us, myself included. He was a rock for me in my early years at UNCW and always greeted me with a warm hug, inquiries about my family and self, and lots of encouragement and advise when we ran into each other at Science Olympiad for years after he left EVS. Bob had my back. I will miss him tremendously.

  • Tom Greene Posted September 8, 2023 7:00 pm

    I’m still blown away by his loss. I met Bob in 1970 during our first year of law school. He was funny, enthusiastic, and smart. During our first year, he interned with the California Air Resources Board and then wrote the first of many articles on cutting edge environmental issues.
    During our years there, we decided to “ride the rails” on a freight train from Northern California to Oregon. We fell asleep during the night and awoke thinking that we had arrived in Nevada, but happily learned that we had only landed in the dry, eastern portion of Oregon. We hitched back to school and regaled our friends, later spouses and children with our adventure. He was a pilot, a prosecutor, a scholar and a wonderful man. Sal was the love of his life and his boys were his great pride. Bob kept his wonderful spirit of happiness, thoughtfulness, and a bit of whimsy throughout his life. We are all lucky to have known him.

  • Joe Kishton Posted September 9, 2023 3:29 pm

    Many years ago, I ran into Bob and one of the boys in the go-kart line at Jungle Rapids. I think it was David , but it could have been Henry. As a closet motor head, I was feeling my RPMs and made a foolish boast. I told them I was going to pass them, let them go by, pass them again, let them by and pass them again. They got into a two-seater and off we zoomed. Needless to say, I never passed them even once. I can still picture Bob, roaring with laughter as, every time I pulled up close next to them, he would send me careening into the tire barrier. Safe harbor, Bob.

  • Christine Greene Posted September 11, 2023 11:18 pm

    I’ve known Bob for 1/2 a century, starting when he was my husband’s, Tom Greene, best friend at King Hall, UC Davis Law School. I am so sad that he’s gone from us. Over the past 50 some years we’ve been friends, attending each other’s weddings, meeting each other’s children, and loving our times together with Sal, the love of his life, and him in Santa Barbara and Wilmington, and keeping in touch even tho we were 3,000 miles apart.. So many blessed memories. I am so lucky that Bob was such a big and important part of my life. I am grateful to have Sal still in our lives.

  • Linda Krop Posted September 16, 2023 6:52 pm

    Dear Sally,
    I am so sorry to learn about Bob’s passing and your loss. I remember fondly the “good old days” in Santa Barbara! I remember him mentoring and supporting me in my early days at the Environmental Defense Center. He was so kind and positive, and his passion for environmental law was infectious. I also remember when he met you and how happy he was – happier than I had ever seen him! I remember your joyful wedding, and your excitement at launching your new life in North Carolina. I know you had many happy years together, and I am grateful for that. Sending you love and hugs! XO Linda Krop

  • Sue Bulluck Posted September 17, 2023 3:53 pm

    Dear Sally, David, Henry, and Reba,
    It has taken me the better part of this past month to wrap my mind around the vacuum caused by Bob’s death. I know that if that is true for me it is a thousand times more true for all of you. I have had a special friendship with you over the 30 years plus of friendship going back to those early legislative support days. We never met whether over coffee and donuts,r a glass of wine, or simply a phone call that we didn’t learn something new from each other. While there were issues and tactics that we might disagree on we were always able to find a positive path forward. We will all miss him but I will take what I have learned from him forward and each time will think of him as moving forward in our collaborative causes together. Call or text when your ready our friendship is simply moving to a new phase. Hugs for all. Bulluck

  • Jovian Sackett Posted December 5, 2023 7:17 pm

    I just learned of Bob’s passing from the UNCW magazine and it’s really hard to believe. I was a student of his in the early 2000s and kept up with him occasionally over the years. He was a pivotal influence, introducing me to environmental law and practical internship experience while I was a student. He was caring and passionate, sipped coffee and laughed while he lectured, always animated. I’m thankful to have known Bob and it fills my heart to read the condolences and memories left here by so many folks who also shared parts of their lives with him. I’m glad to have known him.

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