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Barbara Walters to retire next month

Barbara Walters to retire next month

SIGNING OFF:In honor of her many years on television, the ABC News headquarters in New York will be named for her in a dedication ceremony this spring and "The View" will host a week-long celebration of her career. Photo: Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Pioneering American TV journalist Barbara Walters, who was the first woman to co-anchor an evening news program, will make her final television appearance on the morning talk show “The View” next month, the network ABC said on Monday.

Walters’ last day as a co-host on the all-women talk show she created in 1997 will be on May 16. The network, a unit of Walt Disney Co., will also air a two-hour evening special focusing on her career and her life on the same day.

“In this business there are legends, there are icons, and then there is Barbara Walters,” Bob Iger, chairman and chief executive of The Walt Disney Company, said in a statement.

“She broke barriers, defied convention, made history and set the standard for journalistic excellence for more than 50 years. It’s hard to imagine television without her,” he added.

In honor of her many years on television, the ABC News headquarters in New York will be named for her in a dedication ceremony this spring and “The View” will host a week-long celebration of her career.

“Her influence on television, and American culture, will resonate for decades to come,” Anne Sweeney, the president of Disney/ABC Television Group, said in a statement.

Walters, 84, announced her plans to retire from television nearly a year ago in a tearful appearance on “The View,” saying she was healthy and it was her decision to step down.

“This is what I want to do,” she said. “I’ve had an amazing career.”

Walters has suffered from health problems recently, including a concussion after she fainted and hit her head last year and a bout of chickenpox. In 2010, she had open heart surgery.

Since announcing her retirement, she hosted “20 Years of the 10 Most Fascinating People,” the final show of her yearly special program about intriguing personalities.

During her long career, Walters was known for her interviews on U.S. television with world leaders including Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Britain’s Margaret Thatcher, Saddam Hussein of Iraq and every U.S. president since Richard Nixon.

She also interviewed celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor, Angelina Jolie and Tom Cruise.

Walters began her career in television journalism in 1961 as a writer for NBC’s “Today” morning news show and later became the first woman to co-host.

She broke more ground in 1976 when she joined ABC and became the first woman to co-anchor an evening news broadcast on any U.S. network. Walters has also worked as a producer and host of the ABC news magazine “20/20″ and as a correspondent for ABC News.

(Reporting by Patricia Reaney; Editing by Eric Kelsey and James Dalgleish)

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