Gilbert Baker, the creator of the rainbow flag, has died at 65.
Baker created the flag for the 1978 Pride march in San Francisco, known then as the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade.
Activist Cleve Jones posted the sad news to Facebook, writing: “I am heartbroken. My dearest friend in the world is gone. Gilbert gave the world the Rainbow Flag; he gave me forty years of love and friendship. I can’t stop crying. I love you forever Gilbert Baker.”
Jones later tweeted that there will be a gathering under the rainbow flag at Castro and Market Streets in San Francisco at 7 pm tonight:
San Francisco friends, meet me under Gilbert's flag tonight 7pm Castro/Market. pic.twitter.com/yPCk4jrXBX
— Cleve Jones (@CleveJones1) March 31, 2017
From the bio on Baker’s website:
Baker, born in Kansas 1951, served in the US Army 1970-1972, which stationed him in San Francisco just at the start of the gay liberation movement. His soldier’s story is told in Randy Shilts book “Conduct Unbecoming”. After being honorably discharged Baker stayed in San Francisco and taught himself to sew.
It was this skill that he put to use making banners for gay and anti-war street protest marches, often at a moments notice, at the behest of his friend Harvey Milk- later elected to office and assassinated Nov 27, 1978.
Milk rode triumphantly under the first Rainbow Flags Baker made at their debut on June 25th 1978, for the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade. Baker credits Milk for inspiring his work with the message of hope. Early in 2008 Baker returned to San Francisco to recreate the banners and flags he made in the 70”s for the Academy Award winning feature film “Milk” starring Sean Penn.
Baker is quoted in the 2007 book “The American Flag, Two Centuries of Conflict and Concord” saying “Flags are torn from the soul of the people.” His creation of the Rainbow Flag is in the public domain, as are all flags, and its explosion as a commercial product in endless variations began all most immediately.
Our thoughts go out to Baker’s family and friends.