New York CNN Business  — 

Tom Brokaw is formally retiring from NBC News after an extraordinary 55 years with the network.

Brokaw, 80, is best known for anchoring the “NBC Nightly News” from 1982 through 2004. He has been the network’s senior correspondent in recent years, enjoying a form of semi-retirement while contributing essays to NBC and MSNBC programs.

In his most recent essay, published in late December, he called the coronavirus pandemic “America’s greatest test since the Civil War.”

Brokaw was absent from NBC’s election and inauguration coverage, a fact that was partially attributed to his age and health.

NBC announced his retirement in a press release on Friday that credited him with “more than half a century of award-winning reporting.”

The network said that “Brokaw will continue to be active in print journalism, authoring books and articles, and spend time with his wife, Meredith, three daughters and grandchildren.”

He also remains active on Twitter, where he posted a tribute to Hank Aaron after the baseball legend died on Friday.

Brokaw is a television news icon who, in the words of NBC producer Andy Franklin, “presided over – and led us through – more stories than anyone can count.”

On the occasion of a 2017 special about Brokaw’s career, Franklin and other staffers described Brokaw’s leadership qualities and journalistic backbone.

Robert Windrem spoke of Brokaw’s calm, measured coverage on the day that Richard Nixon resigned the presidency.

“I was deeply impressed not just by his professionalism, but by something else: his patriotism,” Windrem said. “He understood his role in the nation, his responsibility as an American.”

Brokaw helmed most of NBC’s news coverage of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. For the 2017 retrospective, producer Maralyn Gelefsky said “there is no day that I had greater respect or needed his strength and wisdom more than 9/11, when he led NBC and his TV audience with calm assurances.”

Brokaw joined NBC in 1966, as a reporter in the Los Angeles bureau, “covering Ronald Reagan’s first run for the presidency,” according to the network’s biography for him. “He went on to become NBC News’ White House correspondent, co-hosted ‘Today,’ and eventually became the anchor and managing editor of ‘NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw.’”

At first he shared the “Nightly News” with Roger Mudd; one year later, he became the solo anchor, competing with Peter Jennings on ABC and Dan Rather on CBS. The “NBC Nightly News” regularly ranked in first place in the ratings with Brokaw at the helm.

Later in his career, Brokaw stepped in to moderate “Meet the Press” when Tim Russert died in 2008. NBC said Brokaw is the only journalist in network history to host “Today,” “Nightly News” and “Meet the Press.”

In 2018 news outlets published allegations by Linda Vester, a former NBC reporter, that Brokaw sexually harassed her in the early 1990s. Vester told Variety that Brokaw “groped and assaulted” her. Brokaw called Vester a “character assassin” with a “grudge against NBC News” and said he “did not verbally and physically attack her” as described in the interviews.

A number of women at NBC, including hosts like Rachel Maddow and Andrea Mitchell, signed an open letter supporting Brokaw and calling him “a man of tremendous decency and integrity.”

By 2018, Brokaw’s live segments on NBC and MSNBC were already receding. In recent months, he taped his essays rather than appearing live.

His end-of-2020 commentary on “Morning Joe” looked ahead to Joe Biden’s presidency and criticized then-President Trump for “whining while Covid patients struggle to survive.”

“Before too long, Donald Trump’s principal audiences will be his caddies,” he quipped.

Then he turned inward: “For me, it’s been an amazing journey. 57 years, as a reporter. As a young reporter in Omaha, I broke into local programming with a bulletin. President Kennedy had been assassinated. And for the next 57 years, I covered the seismic events that roiled our world, but none were as catastrophic as this pandemic. This is America’s greatest test since the Civil War. We still have miles to go, and no assurances of just how it will all turn out.”

In a statement provided by NBC on Friday afternoon, Brokaw tipped his cap to his colleagues: “During one of the most complex and consequential eras in American history, a new generation of NBC News journalists, producers and technicians is providing America with timely, insightful and critically important information, 24/7. I could not be more proud of them.”