Gilbert Baker, the man who created the rainbow flag — an iconic symbol of the LGBT rights movement — died Thursday. He was 65.
Baker's death was announced on Twitter by activist and author Cleve Jones, who called him his "dearest friend in the world."
"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 wrote on Facebook.
Baker was born in Kansas in 1951 and served in the US Army from 1970 to 1972, stationed in San Francisco. After he was honorably discharged, he stayed in San Francisco and taught himself to sew. During the beginning of the gay liberation movement, Baker was tasked by friend Harvey Milk with making banners for gay and antiwar street protests.
Milk rode under the first rainbow flags that Baker made on June 25, 1978, at the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade. Months later, on Nov. 27, Milk was assassinated, lest than a year after becoming the first openly gay elected official in the US.
On his website, Baker credited Milk with “inspiring his work with the message of hope.” He re-created the banners and flags for the Oscar-nominated film Milk, which starred Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, and Emile Hirsch.
Baker continued his designs and worked for the Paramount Flag Company in San Francisco, creating flamboyant window displays. His clients included then-mayor Dianne Feinstein and the presidents of France, Venezuela, and the Philippines, as well as the king of Spain, according to his website.
He later moved to New York City and created a mile-long rainbow flag for the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots of 1969.
The GLBT Historical Society asked that rainbow flags around the world be lowered to half-mast in Baker's memory.
Meanwhile, tributes to Baker flooded social media thanking him for his contributions.
Harvey Milk was elected in November 1977. An earlier version of this post misstated the date.
BuzzFeed News has reached out to Baker's estate.
Claudia Rosenbaum is an entertainment reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
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