Raye Jean Jordan Montague was an internationally registered professional engineer (RPE) with the U.S. Navy who is credited with the first computer-generated rough draft of a U.S. naval ship. 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.
In 1956, 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.
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 ( the Oliver Hazard Perry–class, or Perry-class, ship) in eighteen hours. This was the first ship designed by computer.
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).
Ties to Arkansas
Raye Jordan was born on January 21, 1935, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Rayford Jordan and Flossie Graves Jordan. She attended St. Bartholomew School before moving to Merrill High School in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), where she graduated in 1952. She attended Arkansas AM&N (now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff), wanting to study engineering, although because no Arkansas colleges were awarding such degrees to African-American women in the 1950s, she took a degree in business, graduating in 1956.
Montague retired in 1990. 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.