Rainbow flag creator Gilbert Baker dies at 65

CW39
This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

NEW YORK — Gilbert Baker, the designer of the iconic rainbow flag, has died.

In 1978, Baker sewed a multicolored flag that became the symbol of the LGBT community across the world.

Baker, 65, died Thursday in his sleep, said Cleve Jones, an AIDS activist and Baker’s longtime friend. He died in New York City, the medical examiner’s office there said.

A vigil in Baker’s memory was planned Friday evening under the rainbow flag in San Francisco’s United Nations Plaza. The banner could be seen flying half-staff from the balcony of Mayor Ed Lee.

“Gilbert was a trailblazer for LGBT rights, a powerful artist and a true friend to all who knew him. Our thoughts are with his friends and family. He will be missed,” Lee said in a statement.

Baker was born in Chanute, Kansas, and joined the US Army as a medic. He arrived in San Francisco about 1970 to work at an orthopedic hospital where Vietnam veterans underwent skin grafts and amputations.

After his honorable discharge from the military, he stayed in San Francisco and immersed himself in the gay and lesbian community.

It was after the election of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California, when Gilbert created the rainbow flag.

The 30-by-60 feet flag flew on Gay Pride Day on June 25, 1978.

“We needed something to express our joy, our beauty, our power. And the rainbow did that,” Baker told CNN in 2015 interview.

The iconic flag became the new symbol for the gay and lesbian community worldwide, but has since then gone through some changes.

The first flag had eight stripes: pink stood for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for the sun, green for nature, turquoise for magic, blue for harmony and purple for spirit.

When Baker began to mass produce the flag the following year, he had to drop two colors. He ended up dropping the pink stripe, as it was too expensive to mass produce, and turquoise, to go with an even number of colors.

A few years ago, Baker suffered a major stroke that left him disabled, but he mostly recovered and taught himself to sew again, Jones told CNN.

He was able to create the flags used in ABC’s miniseries “When We Rise,” based on Jones’ book and a flag that he presented to President Barack Obama at the White House, according to Jones.

“I’m still in shock; he was just the most amazing person. Funny and smart and fierce … One of the most compassionate people,” Jones said.

“The rainbow flag is more than just a symbol. It is the embodiment of the LGBT community, and it has become a source of solace, comfort and pride for all those who look upon it,” Lee said.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trademark and Copyright 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

Popular

Police Theft Prevention - Shannon LaNier

Showers not producing much rainfall - Star Harvey

Astros played coldest game ever - Adam Krueger

Track Severe Weather on the new CW39 app - Adam Krueger

Happy Earth Compost

ABC13 9PM News EVERY night on CW39 Houston

Severe Forecast Friday - Adam Krueger

CW39 Houston headlines - Sharron Melton

LIVE in Minneapolis - Craig Treadway

Verdict reaction - Shannon LaNier

Star Harvey with Amber Wheeler CW39 8-9am

Bus stop, 7-Day, & Carwash forecasts - Star Harvey

Reaction to Chauvin Conviction - Sharron Melton

Chauvin verdict reaction in Houston - Shannon LaNier

Frost Advisory, Freeze Advisory, Fire Weather Warning - Adam Krueger

VERDICT: DEREK CHAUVIN FOUND GUILTY ON ALL THREE COUNTS

VERDICT REACTION - Shannon LaNier

Mars "Ingenuity" Helicopter Reaction Follow w/ Jim Reuter

DC Rep. Bush - Chauvin Verdict Reaction

DC Rep Bass - Chauvin Verdict Reaction

FEATURED STORIES

More Featured

CRIME

More Crime

Local Headlines

More Local

Don't Miss