The public school of Germantown had its beginning in the Masonic Hall located on Germantown Road South. The exact date of the first school is not known; however, a school was in the Masonic building in 1879. In 1885, the school was moved into the Methodist Church which was then located at 2305 McVay Road.
In the fall of 1886, the school was returned to the Masonic Hall. On September 18, 1889, a lot was purchased at 2370 Germantown Road, and a small frame building of four rooms was erected the following year. In December 1891, the school burned. Another school was built on the same lot and was ready for classes in 1892.
In September, 1905, Miss Mabel C. Williams became principal. She remained in that capacity until January, 1909, when she was elected superintendent of Shelby County Schools. In 1910 the Board of Education bought 3 acres (1.2 ha) of land at 7653 Old Poplar Pike. A building of five classrooms and a study hall was erected here, and classes began in 1911. This new building was then named Mabel C. Williams High School in honor of the superintendent. In 1918, an addition to this building made it two stories with a separate science and shop building. The school became a twelve-grade school in 1919.
On November 7, 1927, a small adjoining lot was purchased, and a cafeteria and gymnasium were added. On September 9, 1933, more land was purchased making a total of 19.10 acres (7.73 ha). A second addition consisting of eight rooms plus enlargement of the study hall was completed in 1934. In 1947, a football field with lights and bleachers was dedicated as the Ralph B. Hunt Athletic Field. In 1958, a house and a lot of approximately one acre adjacent to the campus were purchased. A new gymnasium was completed in 1959 with seating capacity of 1200. Additionally, a new baseball field with lights was installed.
In 1961, a new high school building was completed. Two acres adjacent to the campus were purchased, and the grounds were cleared for suitable playground space. In 1964, an eighteen-room elementary school was built enabling a separation of the elementary grades from grades nine through twelve. In 1967, an addition consisting of twelve classrooms , two science labs and a cafeteria was completed. That same year a sixteen room wing was added to the elementary school. In 1970, a quarter-mile rubberized track was completed.
In 1973, work began on a new high school building consisting of twelve classrooms, a language arts department, administrative and guidance offices, an auditorium, a band complex, and a women's gymnasium. In 1974, alterations on the science wing and the art department were completed. A covered walk connecting the new to the old building and a circular driveway crossing the front of the campus were also completed. The old high school building was torn down to make room for vocational buildings which were completed for use in the 1975-76 school year. These two newest buildings, now identified as "V" and "S" buildings, were assigned to house seventeen vocational classes and labs.
Germantown High School's enrollment has increased from 1,200 students in 1975 to its present enrollment Classroom space to accommodate this growth was obtained in 1980. A new middle school was constructed off campus, thus allowing the acquisition of thirty-one classrooms located in the former elementary/middle school building. The campus now included nine buildings and, including athletic fields, covers 27 acres (11 ha). In 1982, a classroom in "V" building was remodeled and equipped as a cable television production studio. The $200,000.00 addition was funded by Germantown Cablevision as a part of its franchise agreement with the City of Germantown. GHS-TV began operating from this facility.
During the summer of 1994, major renovation to the campus of Germantown High School began in order to accommodate physically challenged students. Students with special needs, who at one time attended the Bartlett Learning Center, were reassigned to the high school in the district where they resided. As a result, nearly forty students with a wide variety of special needs were reassigned to Germantown High School. In order to ensure that their needs were met, the following renovations were made: two specialized classrooms were constructed in "M" building, the circulation library was moved from upstairs "C" building to the single story "M" building, a special education bus lane was created in the north end of "M" building with extended canopies for protection from the weather during loading and unloading, and a covered walkway was constructed connecting "M" and "A" buildings. In addition, three new classrooms, a conference room and a storage room were designed from the space vacated by the circulation library in "C" building; new classrooms, a teachers' lounge and workroom, and an assistant principal's office were constructed in "M" building; and an occupational therapy room was created in "M" building. Also, a new classroom was constructed in "V" building, and an elevator was added to "A" building. The remainder of the campus was upgraded to ensure accessibility. All bathrooms were redesigned for this purpose, and ramps were either added or improved near the entrances to all buildings. Also, in the mid-90s, "C" Gym was split into 2/3 in order to create space for a new Band Room, which includes an instrument storage room with shelving, a Band Director's Office, three practice rooms, and locker rooms with storage for band uniforms.
For the 2007 school year, Dr. Lonnie Harris moved the attendance office from "M" building to "C" building, and moved the main office from "C" building to "M" building. The principal's office in "M" building was renovated for Dr. Harris's use. A wall was constructed in a room in "M" building to create offices for an assistant principal and student resource officer. The portable building next to "M" building (formerly the study hall) as well as the ones adjacent to "M" and "M" annex on Chism Trail were razed, and a wall was knocked out in a room in "M" annex to create a new study hall. Also, new aluminum bleachers were erected at the football field to replace the old, worn, wooden bleachers. A new press box was also added.
In fall 2007, some areas zoned to Germantown for 9th and 10th graders in south Shelby County were rezoned to Southwind High School. In turn, some areas zoned to Houston High School were rezoned to Germantown.
In March 2008, Germantown High School was officially declared an International Baccalaureate school. New courses are already being added for the next school year in preparation to give out the first IB diplomas from Germantown High. As of now, Germantown High School is one of only three IB schools in Tennessee, and the second one in Shelby County.
The city of Germantown and its businesses assist school programs at Germantown High School such as GHS-TV, a Public, educational, and government access (PEG) cable tv channel which is funded in part by the city with an annual allocation of $75,000.00. The Germantown Community Television Foundation, a non-profit group, also supports GHS-TV with $145,000.00 annually. The television station serves the community by broadcasting community news and school events. Another program, WET, Water Education Team, is a multiple curriculum focus on the Wolf River. This project is supported by a Goals 2000 Grant, Mid-South Flyfishers Club, and the Wolf River Conservatory.Germantown High school received the Blue Ribbon School award from the United States Department of Education from 1994 to 1996.
5-A Football Tennessee State Champions in 1983 and 2003 and Runner up in 1980, 1986, 1990, and 1994.
Volleyball Tennessee State Champions in 1983, 1985, 1988, 1989, 1990, 2003, and 2005
The 1995 Baseball Team went 38–0 and were National Champions
Cheerleading National Champions in 1998, 2003, 2005, and 2006; also numerous regional and state titles.
The school has its own award-winning TV station which broadcasts 24/7 to residents in Germantown. GHS also has its own professional playhouse, the Poplar Pike Playhouse under the direction of Allison Long. Germantown High School's nationally recognized fine arts department was rated as one of the top of its kind in the nation. Students of these programs gain experience in areas such as reporting, producing, editing, acting, communications, choir, back stage work, costumes, and much more. The school's magazine, Iconoclast, has won numerous awards from such organizations as the National Council for Teachers of English, Scholastic Press Association, and the prestigious gold medal from Columbia University. The 2006–07 staff broke ground with a new layout and design that is already gaining awards buzz for the magazine. It is notable, for it is the first issue not to have a cover produced by the art department.
Germantown High School is the home of numerous teachers who have won Shelby County Teacher of the Year: Frank Bluestein, Billy Pullen, Janey Jackson, and Melinda Keller. Bluestein and Pullen won Tennessee Teacher of the Year.
Germantown High was also included in Newsweek's Best High Schools in 2012.
Germantown High School offers a variety of sports: baseball, basketball, bowling, cross country, football, golf, cheerleading, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, track and field, volleyball, wrestling, dance, and trap shooting.The Germantown Red Devil football team won state championships in 1983 and 2003. They were state football runners-up in 1980, 1986, 1990, and 1994.
The 1999 Germantown girls' soccer team won the TSSAA state championship and finished first in the country in the USA Today girls' soccer poll. They also won the state championship in 2001.
The Germantown boys' soccer team won state championships in 1983 and 1984.
The Germantown boys' baseball team won the state championship in 1981, 1995, and 2001.
The Germantown boys' baseball team won the 1995 National Championship with a record of 35–0
The boys' golf team won the state championship in 1997.
The girls' volleyball team has won the state championship seven times: in 1983, 1985, 1988, 1989, 1990, 2003 and 2005.
The boys' tennis team won the state championship in 1980.
In 2008 the Germantown High School dance team received the "Overall Grand Champion" award for achieving the contest's best score and best choreography designations. The team won first place in pom and third place in hip-hop with a "best showmanship" commendation.
Mickey Callaway, former Major League pitcher, pitching coach Cleveland Indians
Ian Clark, NBA basketball player for the Golden State Warriors
Debbie Elliott, National Public Radio broadcaster
Austin Hollins, former Minnesota Gophers basketball team
Ben Johnson, Major League Baseball player
Paul Maholm, Major League Baseball pitcher
Susan Marshall, vocalist, pianist, songwriter and recording artist
Jeremy Padawer, kids toys and entertainment executive, creator of Monsuno television series on Nickelodeon
Cindy Parlow, US women's national soccer team member
Chris Parnell, Saturday Night Live actor
Missi Pyle, actress in Galaxy Quest, Dodgeball, and Broadway show Boeing Boeing
Eric Still, Houston Oilers offensive guard
Tony Williams, Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle