Gilbert Baker, the man who created the iconic rainbow pride flag that became a symbol for the LGBTQ community, died Thursday at the age of 65.
Baker’s passing was announced by activist and writer Cleve Jones, although the cause of his death wasn’t immediately known.
“My dearest friend in the world is gone,” Jones wrote in a post on Facebook. “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.”
Baker served in the U.S. army for two years in the 1970s before getting honorably discharged. Originally from Kansas, he moved to San Francisco as the gay rights movement was starting to sweep the state. Using his newfound skill of sewing, he turned out numerous banners for gay and anti-war protests for his friend Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California.
One of those hand-sewn creations was a rainbow flag, which Milk first used at the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade in June 1978 - months before Milk was assassinated in November. Baker wrote on his website that Milk was an inspiration to his work and filled it with a “message of hope.”
Twitter was filled with tributes that honored Baker’s life from LGBTQ organizations, politicians and celebrities.
Rest in peace Gilbert Baker creator of the rainbow flag. A perfect symbol for unity and pride. pic.twitter.com/VDag5KEv6Z- Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) March 31, 2017
The GLBT Historical Society also requested that rainbow flags worldwide be flown at half-mast to remember Baker.