Baker was part of a circle of San Francisco gay activists that included Harvey Milk, the city supervisor who was assassinated in 1978, and Cleve Jones, who created the Names Project AIDS memorial quilt in the 1980s.
According to Baker’s website, he taught himself to sew and began making banners for gay and anti-war marches, creating the rainbow flag in 1978.
In an interview Saturday, Jones recalled the rainbow flag’s first appearance at the 1978 gay pride parade.
Baker also designed flags for civic occasions including the inauguration of Dianne Feinstein, now California’s senior U.S. senator, as mayor of San Francisco.
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NEW YORK — The creator of the rainbow flag that has become a widely recognized symbol of gay rights has died at age 65.
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He was stationed in San Francisco in the early days of the gay rights movement and continued to live there after his honourable discharge.
Baker was born in Kansas and served in the U.S. Army from 1970 to 1972.
I didn’t know what or how or — but I knew.” Baker said in a 2008 interview that he knew instantly from the way people reacted to the flag that it was “going to be something.
Campaigner and Rainbow Flag designer Gilbert Baker dies aged 65 NEW YORK, NY – JANUARY 07: Rainbow Flag Creator Gilbert Baker poses at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) on January 7, 2016 in New York City. Baker, an openly gay artist and civil rights activist, designed the Rainbow Flag in 1978. The flag has since become a prominent symbol to the gay community around the world. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) MoMa announced in June 2015 its acquisition of the iconic Rainbow Flag into the design collection.
Gilbert Baker’s death was reported Friday to the New York City medical examiner’s office. The cause wasn’t known.
The flag was initially eight colours but it was cut to six due to limited availability of fabrics, Jones said. He said Baker rejected advice to patent the rainbow flag design and never made a penny off it.
Current San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee said in a statement that the rainbow flag “has become a source of solace, comfort and pride for all those who look upon it.”
“Gilbert was a trailblazer for LGBT rights, a powerful artist and a true friend to all who knew him,” Lee said.
Baker moved to New York in 1994 and created a mile-long rainbow flag for the gay pride parade, which that year commemorated the 25th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall uprising.
“People looked up, and faces lit up and, without any explanation, this was now our flag.” “It was quite amazing to stand there and watch all these thousands of people turn off Market Street into San Francisco Civic Center Plaza and march beneath these giant flags that were flapping in the wind,” Jones said.