Pine Bluff native Raye Jean Montague, a retired, internationally-registered professional engineer and an alumna of AM&N College (now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff) died on Tuesday.
She was 83.
After graduation from AM&N College, Montague began a career in Washington, D.C., with the United States Navy in 1956 and retired in 1990 after serving in numerous leadership roles during her tenure of 33 and a half years. Montague is credited with the rough draft of the first U.S. Naval ship design using a computer (FFG-7 Class: 1971) which revolutionized naval ship design. For this achievement, she was awarded the U.S. Navy’s Meritorious Civilian Service Award in 1972, the Navy’s third-highest civilian award.
The same year, she was nominated by the Secretary of the Navy for the Federal Woman of the Year Award. Montague’s career spanned the development of computer technology, from the UNIVAC I, the world’s first commercially available computer, to what is now considered the modern computer age.
Montague rose from working as a digital computer systems operator at the David Taylor Model Basin (now the David Taylor Naval Ships Research and Development Center) in Carderock, Maryland, to becoming the Program Manager of Ships (PMS-309) for the U.S. Navy’s Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Information Systems Improvement Program; she held a civilian equivalent rank of captain. In this role, Montague was the first female Program Manager of Ships in the United States Navy.
As program manager, she was responsible for five Field Activities, comprising a staff of 250 people and oversaw procurement and purchase of CAD/CAM equipment for 111,000 people.
Montague 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#1).
The last project with which she was affiliated was the Seawolf-class submarine (SSN-21). Montague was a regular presenter to the U.S. Department of Defense’s Joint Chiefs of Staff on computer-related aspects of Naval ship design and construction; she also served as the Secretary on the Board of Directors for the Numerical Control Society; she was the first female to serve on this board.
In 2006, after 50 years spent in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area, she returned to Arkansas, where she remained active with LifeQuest of Arkansas, The Links Inc., Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, the Arkansas Association of University Women, and the American Contract Bridge League.
A mentor to students in several organizations, she spoke to several professional groups on the importance of “thinking outside the box” when doing self-improvement and helping others. Since the debut of the movie “Hidden Figures,” Montague also made appearances on Good Morning America and is currently featured in Inviting Arkansas magazine.