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