LGBT Pride Flag Creator Honored at Local Kansas Restaurant

The world is more connected since the Stonewall riots in 1969. The rainbow Pride flag, created in 1978, has become a universal symbol of LGBTQ+ pride recognizable at parades around the globe. It is also a one-stop visual statement used in storefronts and on Pride merchandise everywhere. Read more below from a report by KMBC News on the flag's history, it's creator and the restaurant in Kansas that honors him.

Rainbow flag creator Gilbert Baker
Gilbert Baker by Spencer Platt / Getty Images

On a breezy day in southeast Kansas, there's pride for our nation, state and heroes. Right in the middle of Main Street, there's gay pride, too.

"I was a little leery at first but talked to my wife and within minutes decided it was the right thing to do," said Dave Pawlus, a restaurant owner.

The rainbow flag flies outside The Kitchen Pass restaurant in downtown each June – gay pride month. It is in honor of one of the town's most famous, yet little known native sons.

"I thought it was a great story that needs to be told," Pawlus said.

Part of Parsons High School's Class of 1969 is Gilbert Baker. His name may not be a household one, but you know his work.

"When it is seen, people know exactly what it is," said Charley Beal, of the Gilbert Baker Foundation.

Baker created the rainbow flag in 1978. Harvey Milk, a friend and openly gay San Francisco leader, tasked the artist with making a new symbol for the gay rights movement. Baker found inspiration at a nightclub.

"I think between the swirling lights and the colors, but most importantly, he wrote about the diversity of the crowd," Beal said.

It's a symbol of pride from a man who grew up hiding his true self.

"If they'd known he was upstairs dressing up in his aunt's ballgown as a little boy, they would have run him out of town," Beal said.

That was more than 50 years ago.

"I tell my kids and grandkids all the time, Gilbert changed the world," said Les Hammett, a former classmate.

Hammett is now leading efforts back home to get recognition for him.

"Not many people knew about Gilbert and I certainly didn't even as a gay man," said Aaron Casserly Stewart, the former president of the Parsons City Commission.

Casserly Stewart said he knows what it is like growing up gay in Parsons.

"Lots of homophobia," he said.

Times are changing. A downtown vacant lot may be the future home of a plaque with Baker's name. City leaders will consider the plan in early July.

"I have to give them their props. They have come a long way, but they have a long way to go," Casserly Stewart said.

It may not be mainstream in Parsons, but pride for Baker has reached Main Street.

"Somebody comes from a small town, southeast Kansas, and influences the whole world like he has? I'm impressed," Hammett said.

A small group in town has organized the Gilbert Baker Film Festival. Baker was planning a trip to Parsons for the event in 2017, but before he could, he suffered a heart attack and died.

Source, Haley Harrison for KMBC News.