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Against All Odds...

Hello and thanks for stopping by. I am a bit late this week. There were internet glitches on Sunday and this is the first opportunity I have had to drop in. I hope you find Raye's story inspiring. Yes,, she was one of the characters in "Hidden Figures." Hidden no longer.

Raye Jordan was born on January 21, 1935, in Little Rock Arkansas and her first memory of a submarine was when her grandfather took her to see a traveling exhibit that included a “midget” sub, possibly an HA.19, and was completely hooked. She remembers, “My grandfather took me downtown to see that submarine and I was able to go down a little ladder into that sub. It was like a tin can. That was my first introduction to ships. You just never know what inspires a person.”

Raye graduated in 1952 from Merrill High School and attended Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical and Normal College (now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff). She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in business in 1956. At the time, the engineering program, which she really wanted, did not admit African-Americans. 

Raye joined the U.S. That same year, Raye joined the U.S. Navy, and they stationed her in Washington, D.C. at David Taylor Model Basin (now the Naval Surface Warfare Center), as a clerk typist. Her work station was next to a 1950s UNIVAC I computer and she found it fascinating, so she watched engineers operating it. Fortuitously, one day, all the engineers had called in sick and Rare jumped right in there to run the machine. She knew she needed more training, so she took night classes in computer programming as she continued her work as a clerk, but learning the job of running the computer, too. 

Eventually, they appointed Raye as a computer systems analyst at the Naval Ship Engineering center, and later they appointed them as the program director for the Naval Sea Systems Center (NAVSEA) Integrated Design, Manufacturing and Maintenance Program and deputy program manager of the Navy’s Information Systems Improvement Program, with the rank of Captain. 

Raye’s department was called to service and allotted one month to create a computer generated ship design. She produced the initial draft for the Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate in about 19 hours by modifying existing automated systems. The made Raye Montague the first person to design a ship using a computer. Later in her illustrious career, she worked on ships such as the Seawolf class sub and Nimitz class aircraft carrier, the Dwight D. Eisenhower. 

Raye was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2013, and into the Arkansas Woman’s Hall of Fame in 2018. 

In 1972, Raye Montague was awarded the U.S. Navy’s Meritorious Civilian Service Award, the Navy’s third highest honorary award. 

Raye 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 also received a host of other honors from military branches, industry, and academia.


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