The Government College Umuahia was founded by Reverend Robert Fisher on January 29, 1929 when he opened the gates of the school to 25 students drawn from all parts of Nigeria and West Africa, but with catchment in Eastern Nigeria, and the Southern Cameroons.
The College began in 1929 as a teacher training institute and in 1930, converted to a secondary school. Fisher ran this school until 1939 when, at the start of the 2nd World War, he left for England on retirement and was replaced by W. N. Tolfree.
On July 4, 1940, the college was closed down and was used as an internement camp for German and Italians captured in the Cameroons during the second world war, despite strong protest by natives of region. Some of the students were sent to the Kings College Lagos, while the rest were distributed to missions schools around the region.
The college was reopened in 1941, by the colonial Education Department with the admittance of 19 students to Kings College as Umuahia Form I and 20 students the following year. In April 1943, the college was relocate to Umudike campus. Classes started officially on July 2, 1943, exactly 3 years after the college was closed down. Due to the damage of the campus during the occupation, it was decided that the students who were dispersed will finish education at their respective centers to the consternation of many stakeholders affected by the decision.
The college has drawn students from among the best performing from Nigeria and Southern Cameroons. It has world class classrooms and laboratories. Its students consistently achieve high scores in exam results at O-Level and A-Level. All students complete core courses in the Arts and Sciences.
Students participate in sports like cricket, hockey, handball and football There are two standard fields (the Upper and Lower fields), cricket pavilions, seven lawn tennis courts, basketball court; and Olympic-size track field. It has a nine-hole golf course; a botanical garden, and an aquarium.
The English artist and archeologist, Kenneth C. Murray, pioneered modern art education in Nigeria when he left Balliol College, Oxford and arrived Nigeria in 1927 to teach art. He taught art at the Government College Umuahia from 1933-1939 and started the Art Gallery which had in its collection, the works of C.C. Ibeto, Uthman Ibrahim, and the early charcoal drawings of Ben Enwonwu. The gallery was looted and destroyed during the Nigerian-Biafra civil war (1967–70), when the school was closed to serve as the General Staff Headquarters of the secessionist Republic of Biafra.
The Government College Umuahia also had an Officer Cadet Corps that offered instruction camps in field drills, and adventure training. It produced professionally trained military officers before the Nigerian civil war including General George Kurubo, first Southern Nigerian to be trained at Sandhurst and first Nigerian Chief of the Nigerian Air Force; General Alex Madiebo, General Officer Commanding the defunct Biafran Army, General Patrick Anwunah, Tony Eze, Tim Onwuatuegwu, C.C. Emelifonwu, Ibanga Ekanem, August Okpe, Col.(Dr.)Bassey Inyang, etc.
Government College Umuahia also produces an unusual high number of literary elite who influenced African Literature more than any other educational institution
- Rev Robert Fisher 1927 – 1937
- Mr W.N Tolfree 1937 – 1940
- Mr W.H Thorp (Acting) 1943
- Mr E.C Hicks 1943 – 1944
- Mr William Simpson OBE 1944 – 1951
- Mr A.B Cozens 1952 – 1955
- Mr James Prable (Acting) 1955
- Mr A.K. Wareham 1955 – 1961
- Mr J.O Wachukwu (Acting) 1962
- Dr I.D Erekosima 1962 – 1965
- Mr So.O Ogujawa 1965 – 1970
- Mr Agwu O Uche 1970 – 1972
- Mr S.O Ogazi 1972 – 1974
- Mr U Udu (Acting) 1974 – 1975
- Chief I Nwauche 1975 – 1977
- Mr O.O Otisi 1977 – 1980
- Mr J Nworgu 1980 – 1984
- Mr E Nduka 1984 – 1985
- Mr P.P.A Amadi 1985 – 1991
- Mr T.N Onwumere 1991 – 2000
- Elder C.C Elekwa 2000 – 2006
- Dr Uvere Kana 2006 – 2010
- Mr C.A Ugah 2010 – 2011
- Chief O.O Onyemachi 2011 – Date