NEW YORK (AP) _ Douglas Edwards, Walter Cronkite's predecessor and the nation's first nightly television news anchor, is retiring April 1 after 46 years with CBS.

Edwards, who covered World War II on radio with the legendary Edward R. Murrow, says he's ''a little sad, but exhilarated'' about retirement.

''I've had a daily TV news report without a break since April 15, 1948, which is a record, almost 40 years now,'' Edwards said Thursday. He laughed and added: ''That and a dollar will get you a ride on the subway.''

''He's been solid and accurate and straightforward and reliable through the years,'' said Mike Wallace, who worked with Edwards on radio nearly 50 years ago, before the two met again at CBS. ''He has not been flashy, and he has not been sensational, he's been solid.''

In 1948, then-CBS President Frank Stanton tapped Edwards to anchor ''Doug Edwards and the News.'' After 14 years in the job, he was succeeded by Cronkite on the ''CBS Evening News.''

Edwards, 70, still does the network newsbreaks and a weekly show, ''For Our Times,'' as well as regular radio broadcasts.

''Doug Edwards has been a friend and a mentor since before I joined CBS News,'' said Dan Rather, only the third TV news anchor in the network's history. ''He's a giant in our craft, and all of us in television and radio news are indebted to him.''

''His name has been synonymous with CBS News since the dawn of television,'' said CBS News President Howard Stringer. ''Doug will be sorely missed, his accomplishments long treasured.''

Edwards already had 10 years of broadcast experience when he joined CBS Radio in 1942 at age 25. He joined Murrow's staff in London in the final months of World War II. Afterwards, he became Paris bureau chief. A interview on the local New York CBS station about his foreign coverage impressed CBS executives.

''They seemed to like the way I conducted myself in front of the camera, and they asked me afterwards if I'd like to do some television news,'' Edwards said. He started by doing the Thursday and Saturday news shows.

He was tapped for the news show after his participation with Murrow and Quincy Howe in CBS' acclaimed radio coverage of the 1948 presidential conventions.

''We did very well, the three of us on those conventions,'' Edwards recalled. ''Afterward, CBS asked me to go into television, and I did it with some fear and trepidation and trembling, not because I was nervous about being on television, I had done quite a bit of it, but radio was the power, and I was pretty young at the time.''

In the beginning, the CBS network consisted of a half-dozen Eastern cities. ''Almost every other night, I'd welcome a new TV station that got hooked up,'' Edwards said. ''Until one night, in 1951 or 1952, I said, 'Good evening, everybody, coast to coast.'''

NBC had ''Camel News Caravan'' with John Cameron Swayze in 1949. ABC launched a nightly news show in 1951 anchored by John Daly, a former CBS correspondent.

Edwards began his broadcasting career at the tender age of 15 on a radio station in Troy, Ala.

After high school, he landed a job with radio station WXYZ in Detroit, home of such popular radio serials as ''The Lone Ranger'' and ''The Green Hornet.'' He worked with another up-and-coming newsman, Mike Wallace.

''We were both Cunningham News Aces back in 1940-41,'' Wallace recalled in a telephone interview from Atlanta, where he was working on a segment for CBS' ''60 Minutes.'' ''Then he left to go to WSB in Atlanta, where I am at this moment.

''Cunningham was a drug chain, and they used to sponsor newscasts, and they used to have the sound of a P-38 (fighter plane) or whatever zooming and, 'The Cunningham News Aces are on the air 3/8' - Doug and me.''

Edwards said he and his wife, May, plan to move to Sarasota, Fla., where he will continue lecturing on broadcast journalism and begin work on an autobiography.