A decade after the 1998 murder of this LGBT youth, the U.S. Congress and President Barack Obama passed an important piece of legislation known as the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
After studying briefly at Catawba College and Casper College, Shepard entered the political science program at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. While in Laramie, he accepted a ride from Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney one evening and was subsequently tortured by the young men; comatose, he died in the hospital six days later.
His death inspired a popular stage play titled The Laramie Project.
He and his younger brother, Logan, grew up in Casper, Wyoming. After their older son's death, Judy and Dennis Shepard established a prominent LGBT activist organization known as the Matthew Shepard Foundation.
During the 2012 to 2013 athletic season, gay professional basketball player Jason Collins wore a number 98 jersey in honor of Shepard and in remembrance of the year in which he was murdered.