"After all the speculation and the rumors and so forth last month, I promised you if I had anything to announce about my future plans, you would hear it first here," the 83-year-old television icon told the audience before a video montage of her career highlights played and the crowd gave her a standing ovation.
"I'm always accused of making people cry, so let me take a breath," she added. "I have been on television continuously for over 50 years, but in the summer of 2014 -- a year from now -- I plan to retire from appearing on television at all. It has been an absolutely joyful, rewarding, challenging, fascinating and occasionally bumpy ride and I wouldn't change a thing. I am perfectly healthy. This is my decision. I have been thinking about it for a long time and this is what I want to do. ... There will be special occasions. I will come back. I'm not walking off into the sunset, but I don't want to appear on another program. I don't want to climb a mountain. I want instead to sit on a sunny field and admire the very gifted women -- and OK, some men too -- who will be taking my place."
ABC News confirmed Sunday Walters will give up her anchor chair and reporting duties for ABC News, but will remain co-executive producer of her daytime chat show "The View."
Walters, whose announcement had been expected for months, recently returned to "The View" after a weeks-long absence while she recovered from a concussion and a bout with chicken pox.
She began her career in 1961 at NBC's "Today Show" and in 1976 became the first woman to anchor an evening news program when she joined ABC's "Evening News." She became a co-host of "20/20" three years later.
Walters is known for her interviews with world leaders such as Fidel Castro, Manachem Begin, Anwar Sadat, Vladimir Putin and every U.S. president and first lady from the Nixons on, ABC noted.
"There's only one Barbara Walters," ABC News President Ben Sherwood said. "And we look forward to making her final year on television as remarkable, path-breaking and news-making as Barbara herself. Barbara will always have a home at ABC News and we look forward to a year befitting her brilliant career, filled with exclusive interviews, great adventures and indelible memories."