Fong, a Republican, was the scion of a political family with deep roots in state politics. His mother, March Fong Eu, a Democrat, was elected to the state Assembly in 1966 and served as California's secretary of state from 1975 to 1994. She was later appointed U.S. ambassador to Micronesia by President Clinton.
Fong was born in Alameda on Nov. 20, 1953, and was reared in Oakland by his adopted parents, Eu and Chester Fong.
Fong was encouraged by Pete Wilson, then a U.S. senator who was running for governor, to run for state controller against Democrat Gray Davis. Fong lost that race, but was later appointed to the Board of Equalization by Wilson, making Fong a rising star in state GOP politics.
In 1998, Fong bested car alarm magnate Darrell Issa in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, despite being outspent by more than 3 to 1, but lost a general election to Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer.
Fong graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1975, and after serving on active duty until 1980 retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserve. His love of flying continued after leaving the academy. Fong was a licensed flight instructor and also was licensed to fly gliders.
He earned a master's degree in business administration at Pepperdine University, where he served on the board of regents until his death, and a law degree at Southwestern University School of Law, now known as Southwestern Law School.
In addition to his mother, he is survived by his wife, Paula; and their two children, Matthew Jr. and Jade.