The designer of the iconic rainbow flag, Gilbert Baker, has passed away.
Baker sewed his first rainbow flag in 1978, which became the LGBT communities symbolic flag nationwide.
Thursday, Baker died in his sleep at age 65 in New York City.
Friday evening, a vigil was held in his memory at the United Nations Plaza in San Francisco, under the rainbow flag. Mayor Ed Lee flew the banner at half-mast from his balcony.
Lee says that Gilbert Baker was a powerful pioneer for LGBT rights, an amazing artist, and a great friend to everyone that knew him. The Mayor says his prayers are with his family, and Baker will truly be missed.
Baker grew up in Chanute, Kansas, serving in the Army as a medic. In 1970, he was working at an orthopedic hospital in San Francisco focusing on amputations and skin grafts for Vietnam veterans.
After an honorably discharge from the Army, he was still in San Francisco, immersing himself in the LGBT community.
Gilbert created his first rainbow flag after Harvey Milk, who was openly gay, was elected into office in California. They flew his 30×60-foot flag for Gay Pride Day in 1978.
In a 2015 interview with Gilbert Baker, he said they needed some way to express their beauty, power, and joy. And a rainbow does just that!
The historical flag quickly became a symbol for the lesbian and gay communities around the world. However, since making the original flag in 1978, it has gone through a few changes.
The original banner had eight stripes. Blue for harmony, green representing nature, orange for healing, pink for sex, purple for spirit, red representing life, turquoise for magic, and yellow for the sun.
The year after creating his original flag, Baker started mass producing them and had to remove two colors. His decision was to remove pink because of the expenses, and turquoise, so it had an even number of colors.
Baker suffered a severe stroke a couple of years ago leaving him disabled. However, he greatly recovered and taught himself to sew again.
He made the flags for ABC’s show “When We Rise.” He also created a banner for President Obama and gave it to him at the White House.
Lee says that the rainbow flag is much more than a symbol. It embodies the LGBT community and is a source of peace, pride, and comfort to everyone looking upon it.