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*Raye Montague was born on this date in 1935. She was a Black internationally registered professional engineer (RPE) with the U.S. Navy (retired).
Raye Jean Jordan Montague was born in Little Rock, Arkansas to Rayford Jordan and Flossie Graves Jordan. She attended St. Bartholomew School before moving to Merrill High School in Pine Bluff, where she graduated in 1952. She attended Arkansas AM&N (now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff), wanting to study engineering, though because no Arkansas colleges were awarding such degrees to Black women in the 1950s, she took a degree in business, graduating in 1956.
After graduation, Montague began her career with the navy at the old David Taylor Model Basin (now the Naval Surface Warfare Center) in Carderock, Maryland, as a digital computer systems operator. She later advanced to the position of computer systems analyst at the Naval Ship Engineering Center and served as the program director for the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Integrated Design, Manufacturing, and Maintenance Program as well as the division head for the Computer-Aided Design and Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAD/CAM) Program.
On January 22, 1984, she accepted the newly created position of deputy program manager of the navy’s Information Systems Improvement Program. This made her the U.S. Navy’s first female program manager of ships (PMS-309), Information Systems Improvement Program, she held a civilian equivalent rank of captain. Montague’s career spans the development of computer technologies, from the UNIVAC I, the world’s first commercially available computer, down to modern computers. She successfully revised the first automated system for selecting and printing ship specifications and produced the first draft for the FFG-7 frigate in eighteen hours.
She is credited with the first computer-generated rough draft of a U.S. naval ship. In 1972, Montague was awarded the U.S. Navy’s Meritorious Civilian Service Award, the navy’s third-highest honorary award. She was the first female professional engineer to receive the Society of Manufacturing Engineers Achievement Award (1978) and the National Computer Graphics Association Award for the Advancement of Computer Graphics (1988). She has also received a host of other honors from military branches, industry, and academia. Montague worked on the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) and the navy’s first landing craft helicopter-assault ship (LHA). The last project with which she was affiliated was the Seawolf-class submarine (SSN-21). Montague retired in 1990.
She was married three times: to Weldon A. Means in 1955, to David H. Montague in 1965, and to James Parrott in 1973. After her marriage to Parrott ended, she returned to the name Montague, the same last name as her only child, David R. Montague. In 2006, after fifty years spent in the metropolitan Washington DC area, she returned to Arkansas, living in west Little Rock, where she remains active with LifeQuest, The Links Inc., the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, and the American Contract Bridge League. She also mentors inmates through a community re-entry program through the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) as well as students at the eStem Elementary Public Charter School in Little Rock.
She retired in 1990. Raye Montague died of congestive heart failure on October 10, 2018, at Baptist Health Medical Center in Little Rock.
Encyclopedia of Arkansas