Rainbow flag creator Gilbert Baker dies at 65

A vigil in San Francisco was being held to remember Gilbert Baker, shown last year.

Story highlights

  • Maker of iconic rainbow flag dies at 65
  • The emblem was created in 1978

(CNN)Gilbert Baker, the designer of the iconic rainbow flag, has died.

In 1978, Baker sewed a multicolored flag that became the symbol of the LGBT community across the world.
    Baker, 65, died Thursday in his sleep, said Cleve Jones, an AIDS activist and Baker's longtime friend. He died in New York City, the medical examiner's office there said.
    A vigil in Baker's memory was planned Friday evening under the rainbow flag in San Francisco's United Nations Plaza. The banner could be seen flying half-staff from the balcony of Mayor Ed Lee.
    "Gilbert was a trailblazer for LGBT rights, a powerful artist and a true friend to all who knew him. Our thoughts are with his friends and family. He will be missed," Lee said in a statement.
    Baker was born in Chanute, Kansas, and joined the US Army as a medic. He arrived in San Francisco about 1970 to work at an orthopedic hospital where Vietnam veterans underwent skin grafts and amputations.
    After his honorable discharge from the military, he stayed in San Francisco and immersed himself in the gay and lesbian community.
    It was after the election of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California, when Gilbert created the rainbow flag.