His contract ends in October and there had been hints from within the BBC that he would be sacrificed as the station tried to change its pop- and-prattle image.
Yesterday he told listeners to his morning show: 'The only option for me is to leave, so that is what I am going to be doing. But as we DJs say, 'the show must go on' - at least until October.'
At the end of that month, Johnny Beerling, 56, steps down as controller after eight years. Like Dave Lee Travis, 47, Mr Beerling was a founder of Radio 1 in 1967. The audience has slipped from about 25 million a week in the Sixties and Seventies to about 16 million today.
The new controller, Matthew Bannister, 36, is a lieutenant of John Birt, the Director-General, and helped him write Extending Choice, the blueprint for the BBC's future. While at GLR, the London station, he sacked Tony Blackburn, another of the original Radio 1 DJs. Extending Choice called for'innovative' radio services, with 'clearly informative and intelligent' presentation.
Dave Lee Travis told listeners yesterday: 'I just want to take a short break from the music for a moment to tell you about something which is very, very important to me. Recently there has been a lot in the press about the BBC and I really wanted to put the record straight at this point.
'I think you, the listeners, ought to know first. One point I wish to make clear is that I have the greatest admiration for what the BBC has stood for - but nothing stays the same. Changes are being made here which go against my principles, and I just cannot agree with them.'
A BBC spokesman said the announcement was a surprise. 'We are sorry to see him go,' he said. He would not comment on the reasons for Mr Travis' departure.