Gilbert Baker, creator of the rainbow flag, dies at 65

Gilbert Baker. (Courtesy Cleve Jones via Facebook)

Gilbert Baker. (Courtesy Cleve Jones via Facebook)

Gilbert Baker, who created the rainbow flag that became an international symbol of gay rights, has died at age 65.

Baker created the flag in June 1978 for the San Francisco Pride Parade. Supervisor Harvey Milk, who was assassinated later that year along with Mayor George Moscone, rode under the rainbow flag made by Baker. According to his online biography, Baker credits Milk with inspiring his work.

Activist Cleve Jones, who was mentored by Milk and worked for him when he was supervisor, said Baker was his “closest friend” for more than 40 years and that Jones helped Baker dye the fabric for that first rainbow flag that flew in the 1978 parade.

“I told him to patent it,” Jones recalled with a sad chuckle, adding that Baker refused to do so. “He said it was his gift for the world… When he saw it fly that first day in ’78, he knew that it was his life’s work.”

Baker died peacefully in his sleep Thursday night at his home in Harlem, Jones said. He had suffered a stroke several years ago that had left him “quite disabled,” but Jones said that Baker had recovered and even taught himself to sew again.

“He created many more banners and flags,” Jones said. “I saw him last for the premiere of ‘When We Rise,'” he added, referring to the TV series that focuses on LGBT rights. Jones said that Baker actually hand-dyed and sewed the flag used in that series.

“He brought me a banner that he’d made for me, a giant banner that says, ‘Rise and Resist,'” Jones said of the last time he saw his friend.

Jones and other friends of Baker will meet at 7 p.m. Friday for a vigil under the rainbow flag designed by Baker at Castro and Market streets.

“He touched the hearts of literally hundreds of millions of people. He was an extraordinary man,” Jones said. “For me, he was just my best friend. I’m really heartbroken.”

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at

Just Posted

Police Chief Bill Scott on Wednesday said a rebranding and reoganization of the former Gang Task Force amounts to “more than just the name change.” (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFPD Gang Task Force is ‘no more’: Chief re-envisions investigative unit

New Community Violence Reduction Team adds officers with community-policing experience

Baseball Hall of Famer Willie Mays attends an event to honor the San Francisco Giants' 2014 World Series victory on Thursday, June 4, 2015, in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)
Willie Mays turns 90: San Francisco celebrates the greatest Giant

By Al Saracevic Examiner staff writer I couldn’t believe it. Willie Mays… Continue reading

Ja’Mari Oliver, center, 11, a fifth grader at Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy, is surrounded by his classmates at a protest outside the Safeway at Church and Market streets on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 in support of him following an April 26 incident where he was falsely accused by an employee of stealing. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
School community rallies behind Black classmate stopped at Safeway

‘When you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us’

A warning notice sits under the windshield wiper of a recreational vehicle belonging to a homeless man named David as it sits parked on De Wolf Street near Alemany Boulevard on Friday, Aug. 31, 2018. A proposed SF Municipal Transportation Agency law would make it illegal for overnight parking on the side street for vehicles taller than seven feet or longer than 22 feet. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFMTA to resume ‘poverty tows’ amid calls to make temporary ban permanent

Fines and fees hurt low-income, homeless residents, but officials say they are a necessary tool

Income from Shared Spaces will provide financial resources to the San Francisco Municipal Transporation Agency, according to its director, Jeffrey Tumlin. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFMTA director says Shared Spaces serves transit agency’s financial interest

$10.6 million price tag for program raises concerns among transit agency’s board members

Most Read