SDAR was founded in Johor Bahru on 1 May 1956 which was firstly known as Sekolah Menengah Melayu (Malay Secondary School). The founding principles of this school were based on suggestions included in Penyata Razak 1956 (Razak Report). Amongst its objectives was to give opportunities to young Malay students in primary schools to further their secondary studies.
When the Sekolah Menengah Melayu was founded, there was no dedicated site for the school. The first group of 80 students and three teachers were temporarily housed at Sekolah Bukit Zaharah, Johor Bahru. In early 1957, the school was relocated to Ipoh, Perak. Half of the students (40 pupils) from the first group re-enrolled to study at the new premises (which is now known as Sekolah Tuanku Abdul Rahman(STAR)).
In May 1957, the school relocated to Tanjung Malim, Perak and shared the campus of Sultan Idris Teachers College (SITC), now Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI). The remaining students from the first group were then relocated to the Tanjung Malim campus. More students registered and the number of students increased to 119. Mr. R.A. Goodchild, the SITC Principal was assigned as a temporary Principal to this new school. Two months later, Mr R. A. Goodchild was replaced by Mr. C.F. Daniels. During this period, the teaching staff was 11, which included two part time teachers.
On 5 January 1958, the new buildings for the school, situated next to SITC, were opened. En. Ariffin Mohd. Nam was appointed as the first school Principal.
On 29 November 1958 the school was renamed. The Education Minister, En. Mohd Khir Johari announced the name as Sekolah Dato’ Abdul Razak. Allahyarham Tun Abdul Razak, the Deputy Prime Minister, graced the event and blessed the new school name. “Berilmu Untuk Berjasa” became the school motto.
The building at Tanjung Malim could no longer accommodate the increasing student population. In 1971, the state government of Negeri Sembilan allocated an area of 16.36 acres (66,200 m2) in Jalan Sikamat, Seremban to build a new school complex. In 2 January 1972, SDAR was officially relocated its new site in Seremban even though the dining hall was not ready and its Remove Class students had to temporary used Maktab Harian building ( A teachers training college – now known as Maktab Perguruan Raja Melewar). The Principal, Tuan Syed Jaafar Al-Idrus, remained as the Principal in the early 1970s.
On June 17, 1973, Dato’ Hussein bin Onn, the Education Minister visited the school. He thought for a premier school such as SDAR, the complex was too small and requested the state’s government to provide more space. The state government could not anything as the land was limited. There was proposal to relocated SDAR to Selaru in Kuala Pilah where about 50 acres (200,000 m2) of land was offered. The suggestion was declined as it was not inline with the government’s aim to exposed the students most of them were from rural area to town-life. Besides they would faced lack of facilities and infrastructures issues. Thus the school remained in Jalan Sikamat, Seremban.
On November 3, 1973, the SDAR campus in Seremban was officially opened. The opening was made by Tun Hajjah Rahah Bt. Tan Sri Haji Mohd Noah, the wife of then Prime Minister Tun Hj Abdul Razak Hussein. Also present was Dato’ Hj Murad Noor, the Director General of Education, Malaysia, and En Annuar Ayeob, Director General of Education, Negeri Sembilan.
In line with SDAR’s status as a premier school in Malaysia, the Ministry of Education was to further improve the school’s infrastructure which required a larger site than the Sikamat campus. The school began the 2002 academic year on a new campus in Sungai Gadut, Seremban and the opening was opened on 2 February 2002. The new campus occupies an area of approximately 40 acres (160,000 m2) and comprises building blocks to accommodate the administration department, three teachers’ room and 25 classrooms, together with four four-storey boarding hostels, a mosque, a dining hall, and apartments for academic and non-academic staff. The campus has a large sports field, and tennis and basketball courts.