ETI salutes Raye Montague the Arkansas ‘Hidden Figure’, dead at 83

In order to be a legend you have to learn from and study the legends.

A legend today is known for their noted celebrity and larger-than-life accomplishments, whose fame is well-known.

An Arkansas native, who was considered a local “hidden figure” for her revolutionary work with the U.S. Navy, died this week.

Raye Montague was credited “with revolutionizing the way the Navy’s ships are designed by developing a computer program that creates rough drafts of ship specifications,” the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports.

She is of many black women “hidden figures” who were STEM trailblazers forgotten by  history due to their gender and race. Her story was profiled as part of a Good Morning America segment in 2017, around the theater release of the Oscar-nominated Hidden Figures. The film chronicles the story of black female mathematicians who weren’t credited for their breakthroughs while working for NASA.

Born in segregated Arkansas, Montague had to navigate her intelligence amid racism and sexism. For example, she was denied admission to the University of Arkansas because it wouldn’t accept a minority.

She went on to become an internationally registered U.S. Naval Engineer who revived an old computer prototype that would deliver the first computer-generated draft for a Navy ship ever.

“I worked long hours and traveled for the job because I couldn’t say I wanted the same wages as the guys if I couldn’t. I had to do all the same things, within reason, that they did.”

Due to her work, she received the Meritorious Civilian Service Award from the Navy, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers Achievement Award and the National Computer Graphics Association Award for the Advancement of Computer Graphics, according to the Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame, which she was inducted into in 2018.

“Arkansas lost an influential female role model who was an engineer pioneer and trailblazer for women,” said Congressman French Hill. “She pushed through obstacles and paved her own path in the U.S. Navy even though odds were against her. Raye’s story shows us that, with perseverance and determination, there’s nothing one cannot achieve. While she will be dearly missed, her legacy lives on.”

A formal cause of death was not determined, though she suffered from congestive heart failure. She was 83.


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