Albert W. Matthews, 70, a retired Agriculture Department official and a former commander of the D.C. Department of the American Legion, died Oct. 18 at the Washington Hospital Center, where he was being treated for cancer.

Mr. Matthews, who lived in Washington from about 1940 until 1979, when he moved to Royal Palm Beach, Fla., was born in Scranton, Pa. He joined Agriculture when he moved here. From 1956 to 1963, he was chief of the department's photography laboratory. He then was chief of photographic operations in the information division. He retired in 1972.

He served in the Army Air Forces in the China-Burma-India Theater during World War II.

In the mid-1950s, he was commander of American Legion Post No. 36 at Agriculture. From 1967 to 1968, he was commander of the Legion's D.C. Department. From 1973 to 1974, he was a member of the Legion's National Executive Committee.

Survivors include his wife, Lillian, of Royal Palm Beach; a son, Carroll L., of Rockville; two stepsons, Robert Tager of Potomac, and Richard Tager of Guilford, Conn.; two stepdaughters, Barbara A. Rosamond of Flagler Beach, Fla., and Carolyn Literati of Rockville; his mother, Verna Matthews, a brother, Edgar, and a sister, Jean Collins, all of Scranton; 16 grandchildren and a great-grandchild.