Johnna's Articles

A Special Daily Resource Shared by Kerry Ruff

Saturday, February 13th, 2021




Raye Jean Montague was born on January 21 1935 to Rayford Jordan and Flossie Graves Jordan in Little Rock, Arkansas. As a child, she would excel in math and science and when she was around 7 years old; her grandfather took Raye to go see the captured German submarine from WWII. As she toured the submarine, she was so fascinated with all of the dials and the mechanisms on how the ship worked and asked the tour guide, “what do you have to know to do this?” The tour guide told her, “you’d have to be an engineer, but you don’t have to worry about that.” After graduating from high school, she went on to attend Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical and Normal College in 1952. She was not permitted to study engineering because the University did not admit black students so she would graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in business in 1956. The same year, Raye moved to Washington, DC to become a typist for the Navy and she took night classes in computer programming and engineering to still pursue her dream of becoming an engineering. Ms. Montague’s job sat her right next to the Navy’s UNIVAC I computer and she learned how it worked by watching the white male engineers running the computer. She was not allowed to touch the computer but one day when all of the engineers were out sick, she proved that she was up to the challenge of running the machine by herself. Her boss unwillingly agreed to give her a promotion to work on engineering projects only if she worked the night shift. However, Raye didn’t know how to drive and public transportation did not run at night so she would buy herself a 1949 Pontiac and taught herself how to drive and worked nights until she got the promotion. She was appointed to computer systems analyst at the Naval Ship Engineering Center and in 1971, she was given the task of how to design a Naval ship using a computer. Her boss forgot to mention that his team or department had been unsuccessful in accomplishing this task for years. Raye would tear down the Navy’s computer and rebuild it and after months, she was able to create computer generated ship designs. A Navy officer asked Ms. Montague to create a rough draft for an actual ship and let me highlight that it took two years to design a ship on paper and they gave her a month to complete her design. Raye finished the initial draft design for the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate in 18 hours and 56 minutes, making her design the first computer generated rough draft of a U.S naval ship. To honor her breakthrough in the ship design process, she was awarded the Navy’s Meritorious Civilian Service Award in 1972. Later she served as the program director for the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Integrated Design, Manufacturing and Maintenance Program, the division head for the Computer-Aided Design and Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAD/CAM) Program and deputy program manager of the Navy’s Information Systems Improvement Program. Raye would earn the civilian equivalent rank of a captain if she was in the Navy. The Navy recognized Ms. Raye Montague’s work and she was inducted into the Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame. Today we honor the woman who was the first person to create a design for a Naval ship by using a computer and her work revolutionized US Naval ship design. Thank you. Happy Black History Month. 

Don’t let people control you, you control the situation. Change obstacles into challenges. You might have to step back and go a different direction but you can achieve.


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