Gilbert Baker was found dead on Friday in his New York City home

By Char Adams
April 01, 2017 05:19 PM
Gilbert Baker
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The man who tie-dyed and hand-stitched the rainbow flag that has become the worldwide symbol for gay pride and the LGBTQ community has died. He was 65.

Gilbert Baker, who described himself as a “gay Betsy Ross,” was found dead on Friday in his New York City home, the New York Times reports.

“Gilbert Baker was a pioneer in the gay rights movement,” LGBT Network CEO Dr. David Kilmnick said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.

“It is a great loss to the LGBT community and all Americans and he will be greatly missed, but leaves us with a symbol of unity and pride that will carry on forever.”

Cleve Jones, a gay rights activist and friend of Baker, told the Times that Baker had a stroke many years ago but had not been sick recently.

Baker created the flag in 1978. That year, Harvey Milk, a San Francisco politician and gay rights leader, asked Baker to create an emblem for the movement (Milk was assassinated that year).

Along with volunteers, Baker tie-dyed and pieced together the first gay pride flags at a gay community center, unveiling them in a June gay pride parade, the Times reports.

“We stood there and watched and saw the flags, and their faces lit up,” Jones told the publication. “It needed no explanation. People knew immediately that it was our flag.”

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Dustin Lance Black, who won an Oscar for writing the screenplay for the 2008 film Milk, posted a moving Twitter tribute to Baker.

“GayGod, you’d think I’d be a pro at losing the people I love by now. I’m a mess. I [love] U, Gilbert Baker,” Black wrote.

Candlelight vigils were being held all around the world as the weekend began to honor Baker.

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