Matt Fong, former California treasurer, dies in Pasadena

Matt Fong in a file photo
Matt Fong in a file photo

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Former California treasurer Matt Fong has died of skin cancer at his home in Pasadena. Fong, a scion of a political family, held the treasurer's job for four years in the 1990s under Gov. Pete Wilson. He was 57.

His adoptive mother was longtime California Secretary of State March Fong Eu. Matt Fong distinguished himself early; he earned a bachelor’s degree from the Air Force Academy, a master’s in business administration from Pepperdine and a law degree from Southwestern Law School.

Gov. Wilson appointed Fong, a Republican, to the state Board of Equalization. In 1995 he won election to the state treasurer’s job. Three years later, he aimed higher but fell short in a challenge to Barbara Boxer’s U.S. Senate seat.

After Fong left elected office he served on the boards of tech start-ups, special counsel with a Los Angeles law firm, and as chair of the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation advisory board. Fong twice survived head and neck cancer in recent years.

In tribute, current state treasurer Bill Lockyer wrote that when Fong held that job, he “never forgot he was managing taxpayers’ money, and never failed to put their interests first.”

Boxer issued a statement commending Fong for a distinguished career of public service.

"In our Senate race years ago, Matt was a strong competitor and we debated passionately, but we always had respect for one another," Boxer said.

Former Gov. Pete Wilson, a political mentor to Fong, remembered him for his intellect and heart. Wilson helped launch Fong's political career when he appointed him to the state Board of Equalization in 1991.

"He was a thoroughly decent, good man and one of the more talented public servants that I have been privileged to work with," Wilson said in a statement.

Paula Fong said her husband will be buried in Colorado Springs, Colo., where he attended the Air Force Academy.