Rainbow Flag Creator and Activist Gilbert Baker Has Died at 65

Kathmandu (Pahichan) April 11 – The man who created the most recognizable symbol of LGBT unity and pride, Gilbert Baker, has died at 65, according to a Facebook post from his close friend, activist and writer Cleve Jones.

A flagmaker by trade, Baker sewed the first rainbow flags in 1978, and they debuted at the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade, where San Francisco City Supervisor and LGBT rights activist Harvey Milk passed under them as they flew high above the parade route, according to Baker’s website. 

“My dearest friend in the world is gone. Gilbert Baker gave the world the Rainbow Flag; he gave me forty years of love and friendship,” Jones, whose autobiography inspired the recent ABC miniseries When We Rise, in which Baker was featured, wrote in a Twitter post.

An Army veteran, Baker, who was born in Kansas in 1951, was stationed in San Francisco in the early ‘70s, and he remained there upon his honorable discharge from the armed services. He eventually taught himself to sew, combining his skills with activism early on, creating banners for protests on the fly, often at the request of his friend Milk. 

Following the creation of the rainbow flag, Baker took a job with the Paramount Flag Company in San Francisco. His outrageous designs caught the eye of then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein, who commissioned him to create work for her inauguration. From there he designed works for luminaries including the premier of China, the president of France, the president of Venezuela, the president of the Philippines, and the king of Spain. He also designed the flags for the 1984 Democratic National Convention, according to his website.