SAN FRANCISCO (CBS/AP) — The creator of the rainbow flag that has become a widely recognized symbol of gay rights has died at age 65.

Gilbert Baker’s death was reported Friday to the New York City medical examiner’s office. The cause wasn’t known.

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Baker was born in Kansas and served in the U.S. Army from 1970 to 1972.

He was stationed in San Francisco in the early days of the gay rights movement and continued to live there after his honorable discharge.

Gilbert Baker Photo by Spencer Platt Getty Images

Gilbert Baker (Spencer Platt Getty Images)

According to Baker’s website, he taught himself to sew and began making banners for gay and anti-war marches, creating the rainbow flag in 1978.

Baker said in a 2008 interview that he knew instantly from the way people reacted to the flag that it was “going to be something. I didn’t know what or how or – but I knew.”

Baker also designed flags for civic occasions including the inauguration of Dianne Feinstein, now California’s senior U.S. senator, as mayor of San Francisco.

Baker moved to New York in 1994 and created a mile-long rainbow flag for the gay pride parade, which that year commemorated the 25th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall uprising.

Current San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee said in a statement that the rainbow flag “has become a source of solace, comfort and pride for all those who look upon it.”

“Gilbert was a trailblazer for LGBT rights, a powerful artist and a true friend to all who knew him,” Lee said.

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