Raye Jean Jordan Montague was an engineer and graphics design trailblazer in the U.S. Navy who is credited with the first computer-generated rough draft of a U.S. naval ship. She was recognized by NBC’s Good Morning America as a “hidden figure” in science and computing for the U.S. Navy.
Born in Little Rock, she graduated from what would later become the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff in 1956. She wanted to study engineering, but could not due to segregation, so she graduated with a business degree.
She began her naval career in Maryland as a digital computer systems operator. She later became a computer systems analyst and served as program director for the Naval Sea Systems Command’s Integrated Design, Manufacturing and Maintenance Program. She became the first female Program Manager of Ships in the U.S. Navy, overseeing a staff of 250 and the procurement of Computer-Aided Design and Computer-Aided Manufacturing equipment for more than 100,000 people. She worked on the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Navy’s first landing craft helicopter-assault ship. Her work using computer design saved time and millions of federal tax dollars.
In 1972, she was given the U.S. Navy’s Meritorious Civilian Service Award, the third-highest honorary award. In 1978, she became the first female professional engineer to receive the Society of Manufacturing Engineers Achievement Award, and in 1988, earned the National Computer Graphics Association Award for the Advancement of Computer Graphics.
The significance of her contributions to the Navy have ben documented in a series of articles titled, “Breaking Barriers: The Raye Montague Story.”
After her 30-year naval career, Montague is now a mentor, volunteer and motivational speaker in Little Rock. She’s active with LifeQuest, The Links Inc, the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, and the American Contract Bridge League. She volunteers with students at the eStem Elementary Public Charter School in Little Rock and works with inmates through a community re-entry program at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.