Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brianna K. Green/U.S. Navy.
"I'm known as the first person to design a ship using the computer," she explained — and she was being humble. She actually designed it in 19 hours using a system she built even though she'd been given a whole month.
"And I was the first female program manager of ships in the history of the Navy, which was the equivalent of being a CEO of a company," she added.
That's quite an accomplishment for anyone, but as a Black woman in Little Rock, Arkansas, the road there was particular bumpy for Montague.
"Growing up in a segregated South, you never dreamed that these options were available to you," she said. She remembers exploring a submarine with her grandpa and asking a man working there how she could work somewhere like it one day. "Oh, you'd have to be an engineer, but you don't ever have to worry about that," he responded.
She proved him wrong. Even though she couldn't get an engineering degree because her first-choice school didn't accept Black people, she got a business degree at a Black college, started in the Navy in 1956 as a typist, and learned engineering and programming while she worked.
During her 33 years in the Navy as a civilian employee, she frequently got the impression that she didn't belong there — but she had the best attitude about it. After someone asked her for some coffee, she responded that she wanted some as well. "Be sure mine has cream and sugar," she recalls saying.
Her upbringing helped her realize she was as worthy as anyone else there. "My mother told me when I was a very little girl, 'Raye, you'll have three strikes against you. You're female and you're black and you'll have a southern segregated school education,'" she said. "'But you can be or do anything you want, provided you're educated.'"
The cast of Hidden Figures stopped by to show their appreciation for Montague. "I want to let you know that you are no longer hidden. We see you. We salute you. And we thank you," Octavia Spencer told her.
"We thank you so much for your service," said Janelle Monae. "You are an American hero and you are hidden no more. Everybody sees you."